Saturday, April 9, 2016

by Lucy Maddox 

Chester County is an area in Pennsylvania along the southeastern border. It abuts the northern boundaries of Maryland and Delaware. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, these boundary lines converged with the fabled line drawn by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. What this means is that Chester County was sort of stuck between the free states to the north of this particular line and the slave states to the south of it. Pennsylvania was a free state then but that didn't necessarily guarantee freedom to anyone who was black due to the slave catchers. They would take them whether they were free or not and sell them across state lines.
In 1851, Elizabeth Parker, a free black child was abducted from a farm by two men and taken to a slave pen in Baltimore. Two weeks later, her teenage sister Rachel was abducted from another farm and brought to the same place as Elizabeth. The man who took both of them was caught in Baltimore and arrested. Thomas McCreary was charged but unfortunately never convicted. So, he was free and the two poor girls who had done nothing wrong spent months in jail. Blame it all on the Fugitive Slave Law of 1950.
There's quite a number of books written about slavery in the south, so finding one that talks about the antagonism between a free state such as Pennsylvania and the slave state Maryland is incredible. The heroics of a small farming community who took matters into their own hands by going after the perpetrators and saving the fugitives themselves is remarkable. Historian Lucy Maddox writes extremely well considering the amount of details and research that she accomplished. In lesser hands, The Parker Sisters could have been quite boring and plodding. Thankfully, it was not. It's most definitely a great read.