The case of Underground Railroad conductor Samuel Burris has come full circle, this after the abolitionist will finally be pardoned, 168 years since his conviction for freeing slaves. The state of Delaware will honor Burris in a ceremony next month, clearing him of his charges posthumously in the process.
Burris was born in 1808 in the Willow Grove section of Delaware in Kent County. Although he was a free man, Burris took his family to the relative safety of Philadelphia to avoid being abducted and sold into slavery. In 1845, and with slavery dying out, Burris began working alongside abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor William Still, and Thomas Garrett.
Burris understood the risks involved in working with the Underground Railroad, which was illegal in the state. Burris was eventually caught in 1847 assisting slave Maria Mathews’ escape from a plantation in Dover. Burris was jailed and spent 14 months in jail despite the protests of his fellow abolitionists. At the end of his stay in prison, Burris was convicted and was to be auctioned into slavery.