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
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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 he was to be sold into servitude himself for 14 years. He was saved from slavery by abolitionists, who purchased him for $500 in gold and took 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. It is 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.  They included 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.  It 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 (8)
  • John0724-YYCA
    11/10/2015 - 09:31 p.m.

    This free black guy was put in prison for ten months and after that he was sold in slavery and spent 15 years as a slave. He had this punishment because he freed a lot of slaves to be free. I think that they shouldn't have given him a punishment because he did a good thing.

  • lucasl-3-bar
    11/11/2015 - 05:05 p.m.

    Despite that Burris had died many years ago, the pardon is important for Delaware and the United States. In the article, the governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, said that Burris stood up for what was right. This shows the governor's recognition of Burris's bravery and that he is honoring him. Burris is being recognized as a hero, and this act will encourage people to continue to work for equality.
    The article was interesting and inspiring, as the topic explained the honoring of a man who helped others escape from slavery. It showed that the government is working to encourage equality and honor those who fought for it.

  • calis-3-bar
    11/12/2015 - 08:34 p.m.

    It is important to pardon Burris, even through he has been dead for a while, to show that the United States has acknowledged their wrongdoing in allowing slavery, and by trying to show the African American population that the nation is sorry for what they have done and are trying to make up for it in a public way. Burris was an African man who helped slaves escape through the underground railroad. By pardoning this action, people can know that the United States government is doing all that they can to make up for having slavery legal. I liked this article, as I believe that it is important to recognize your wrongdoings, in order to make them right. Without acknowledging your past, it is hard for people to move on, especially when you are a nation who welcomes all races in. I liked this article, as it proves that not all people are to "good" to acknowledge their own mistakes.

  • ericw-6-bar
    11/13/2015 - 12:43 a.m.

    It was important to pardon him to admit that America is not perfect. We have thought for over 200 years that our nation is the land of the free but it has never been. We still do not have homosexual or gender equality, and slurs of racism in every state. s man was a hero and our "land of the free" has not recognized it because of our arrogance in thinking our nation is the heaven of Earth. We have our benefits but we may never have complete freedom for all living things.

  • mayaw-6-bar
    11/16/2015 - 08:36 p.m.

    It was very important to pardon Burris so many years after he died because by pardoning Burris, the state of Delaware is showing all of America that they support equal rights for everyone. In paragraph 5 it says, "Thomas said she hoped that the ceremony might lead to similar pardons for other 19th-century abolitionists." This shows us that they want other states to do the same as them, and they disagree with slavery. I found this article interesting because I enjoy reading about the United States government.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    2/09/2016 - 09:12 p.m.

    The governor might have wanted to pardon the man who helped slaves escape from their slavery because people might have wanted to get the man to be pardoned after he had helped slaves escape which people won't get him to be punished. The people might have wanted to get people to not be getting the man to be not pardoned because people might have wanted to get people to pardon the man because he was fighting against slavery. The governor might have wanted people to be pardoning the man who helped people slaves escape from slavery because people had gotten the man caught helping out slaves. People might have been getting to pardon the man who helped out slaves to be escaping slavery because people had been pardoning an who had helped out slaves to be escaping their slavery to freedom.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why was it so important to pardon Burris, so many years after he died?
    Answer: Because he had helped out slaves escape and people could see how the man cared much about slavery.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/29/2016 - 08:29 p.m.

    I think that Samuel D. Burris was a brave and righteous man. He was freed from slavery by abolitionists who paid with fiver hundred dollars worth of gold. I am doing a project and it includes the abolitionists and their movement. Although Samuel Burris was free, he tried to help the other slaves to escape through an underground railroad. He was captured and had a lot of punishments.
    I think that it is important to pardon Burris after so many years of his death because he deserved to be praised and respected for his bravery and righteousness.

  • tylerl-ver
    5/04/2016 - 06:30 p.m.

    It was important to acknowledge this man for the good he had done in helping other slaves gain their freedom. The United States is sometimes slow in accepting that what they sometimes do is wrong.

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