Governor pardons man who helped slaves escape Ocea Thomas poses for a portrait with a picture of her ancestor Samuel Burris Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Governor pardons man who helped slaves escape
Lexile

Exactly 168 years after he was convicted, a black man who lost his own freedom to help others escape slavery was posthumously pardoned by Delaware's governor.
 
Samuel D. Burris, a free black man, was found guilty in 1847 of helping slaves in central Delaware escape on the Underground Railroad. As his punishment, Burris was sentenced to 10 months in prison and to be sold into servitude himself for 14 years. He was saved from slavery by abolitionists who purchased him for $500 in gold and rushed him to Philadelphia to be reunited with his wife and children.
 
"Now, 168 years after he sat in jail for fighting against slavery, we in Delaware are correcting that injustice," Gov. Jack Markell said to the applause of a standing-room only crowd at the Old State House in Dover, where Burris was tried. "I pardon Samuel Burris for the crimes that he was convicted of."
 
Several of Burris's descendants were on hand Nov. 2 for the ceremony, including Ocea Thomas of Atlanta and Pastor Ralph D. Smith of Dover.
 
Thomas said she hoped that the ceremony might lead to similar pardons for other 19th-century abolitionists.
 
"I think it is supporting the fact that actually what he did wasn't really wrong. Maybe it will be something that will spread to other states," she said.
 
Smith said Burris put himself and his family in danger in order to help others.
 
"It did not stop him from doing what he thought was right," Smith said in his invocation as shouts of "Amen!" filled the room.
 
Markell called Burris a hero for risking his own liberty in the fight to eradicate slavery.
 
"His sentence was harsh," Markell noted. "Prior to that sentence, he was a free man. But he was not content simply to secure his own freedom. He risked his life to ensure that others would be free as well."
 
In addition to the pardon, Burris is being honored with a roadside historical marker that was erected near his home in central Delaware.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was it so important to pardon Burris, so many years after he died?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (33)
  • calaabj-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:30 p.m.

    It is important because he was an abolitionist against slavery and risked his freedom and life to save other slaves and give them the chance to experience freedom.

  • travisb-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

    It is important to pardon Burris even after he died because he remains a great piece of our nations past. He put others live before his, and had to do time because of it. Although he is no longer here, he can be remembered so we can learn from him.

  • callans-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

    It is important to pardon Burris even though his is dead, is that he did the right thing and helped the slaves escape. Slavery is wrong, was wrong, and always will be, and he was trying to free the people that were effected by it.

  • kyleighp-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

    It is so important to pardon Burris,so many years after he died, so that his kin don't have to suffer the humilation of such a title upon a man who did the right thing.

  • audreya-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:32 p.m.

    Its important to pardon Burris, so many years after he died because it showed how he was right to fight against it and should lift that burden off his family's chest.

  • mattv-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:32 p.m.

    It's not as much important as it is respectful to him and his family. The family may find it important because he was mistreated when he was helping the slaves, but it's just more of an act of kindness instead of a necessity.

  • garretta-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:32 p.m.

    It is important to pardon Burris,so many years after his death because it will let his family know that the council of Delaware is sorry for the conviction they gave to the man.

  • elizabetht-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:32 p.m.

    It was important to pardon Burris even after his death because it was correcting past injustice.

  • hannaha-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    It was important to pardon Burris to show that he did the right thing and to honor him for it.

  • mimir-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    It was important to pardon Burris even though he's been deceased for many years because event though he broke the law in helping slaves escape, he was keeping others' rights as humans in mind. Also, so that the families and descendants have peace of the knowledge that the government no longer viewed his actions as a crime.

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