William Penn’s impact on the abolishment of slavery.

William Penn, a converted Quaker, was given land grants in the new world by the King of England as repayment on a loan his father made to the monarchy. He sold those grants to members of The Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. They came to this country to escape religious persecution and to practice their faith freely.   This act would have far reaching impact on freeing another persecuted people some 100 years later – slaves.

The abolishment of slavery was driven, in large part, by religious groups whose beliefs were not compatible with slavery.   Penn himself, who came to America and landed in Chester, Delaware County, was a converted Quaker and is credited by many with giving rise to the Quaker faith in America.  Descendants of Penn’s founding families became one of the most influential anti-slavery groups in the nation, risking their lives and properties, to move freedom seekers northward.

The movement began when members of Darby Meeting House began sharing their beliefs, by meeting with other local Quaker and Christian groups, using thoughtful debate to encourage them to take a stand against slavery.  As the movement grew, they further influenced people by using modern concepts familiar to all of us today:  they boycotted area businesses and even other southern Quaker suppliers of goods, if those companies had slaves. Some also used a form of community policing to encourage slave-owning Quakers moving into their communities to free them by not allowing them to purchase goods at community stores or join in community activities. Photo Credit: ©Wikimedia Commons:  Creative Commons CC0 License

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Special thanks to Keith Lockhart, Bob Seeley, Bill McDevitt, Harold Finnegan, Tom Smith, Karen Micha, Kate Clifford, Susan Mescanti, Carol Fireng, Leslie Potter, and Laurie Grant for sharing their knowledge, documents, articles, maps and photos with Visit Delco, PA.  Laurie Grant, Executive Director of the Delaware County Historical Society invites those seeking more information to visit their website. “Since 1895 DCHS remains true to its mission of Collecting, Protecting, and Preserving Delco history and tradition,” Laurie notes, “we also have a Museum Gallery, Research Library and Children’s Education Center.”