Heavy Weights—Arrival of a Party at League Island.
This engraving, published in William Still's The Underground Rail Road (1872), depicts the nighttime arrival of fifteen runaway slaves at League Island, in Philadelphia, in July 1856. The fugitives had traveled aboard a schooner from Norfolk, evading detection when their boat was searched en route. According to Still, when they landed, Mrs. Walker, a heavyset woman of about 260 pounds, had to be pulled up the embankment by the rescuing committee. The author noted that "the captain, who had experienced much inconvenience with her on the voyage, owing to the space she required chuckled over the fact that the Committee would have their hands full." Walker, along with a number of other members of the party, left Philadelphia and traveled to Boston and then New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Still worked as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society beginning in 1847 and later for the city's Vigilance Committee. At great personal risk, he kept careful records of the many African Americans he and others in Philadelphia helped along the Underground Railroad. These records became the basis for his book.
Citation: The Underground Rail Road. A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships Hair-breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author; Together with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders, and Most Liberal Aiders and advisers, of the Road. E 450 .S85 1879. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.