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Delaware State House

As the site of Delaware’s legislative chambers, judicial courtroom, and executive office, Delaware’s State House on The Green in Dover became the critical focal point in the life of Samuel D. Burris, an educated free Black man from nearby Willow Grove in Kent County, Delaware. Beginning with legislation enacted in February 1837 by the Senate and House of Representatives that set forth penalties for those caught assisting the escape of enslaved people, to the arrest and trial of Samuel Burris ten years later, to the refusal of the Governor to intervene in the case despite the pleas of noted abolitionists, the State House provided the backdrop for an incredible story of steadfast allegiance. Samuel Burris’ jail cell was a scant 100 yards from the State House. The steps of the historic building then provided the setting for the dramatic moment when the law was played out, resulting in the auction of Burris into servitude, according to the 1837 statute. What the law did not provide for was the ironic means used by abolitionists to gain and ensure the freedom of the documented Conductor who was described by William Still in Underground Railroad as an “accredited agent”.

Visitor Information: Currently open to public.

Location: 25 The Green, Dover, 19901

National Park Unit: No

Ownership: Daniel Griffith

Location Type: Site

Freedom Seekers: Samuel D. Burris