Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett: The Underground Railroad in Delaware

Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett: The Underground Railroad in Delaware

By the time of the Civil War in 1861, slavery had been outlawed in Pennsylvania, but it was still legal in Delaware. That made Delaware one of the last stops on a network of secret routes and safe houses used by people seeking freedom. That network became known as the Underground Railroad. It’s estimated that Harriet Tubman was personally able to rescue about 70 enslaved people in her lifetime and that with her advice and directions, about 70 more individuals were able to find their own way to freedom. After risking her life to free herself, she made at least 11 more trips back to Maryland to lead others to freedom, and she often stopped in Wilmington to meet with Thomas Garrett, a Quaker and a member of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. He lived on Shipley Street in Wilmington, in the Quaker Hill neighborhood with his wife and children.

At least 2700 accounts document Garrett directly helping men, women, and children escape to freedom. Garrett supplied Harriet Tubman with food, clothing, shelter, and money donated by abolitionists from across the country and from Europe. Slavery in the United States was abolished by the 13th amendment in 1865. Celebrations broke out in the streets. A procession of revelers wound its way to Garrett’s home on Shipley Street in Wilmington, and he was placed in an open carriage with a wreath of flowers draped around his shoulders. Said the newspapers, “no man in the country has done more for the poor and oppressed both black and white than Thomas Garrett.”

Learn more about Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett by visiting the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.

Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett: The Underground Railroad in Delawaren” is part of Speaking of Delaware…, a series of short videos presented by the Delaware Historical Society and produced by Short Order Production House. Videos premiere the first Thursday of every month on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and our website. This series is funded in part by the Longwood Foundation, Delmarva Power, an Exelon Company, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and by a grant from Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Primary Sources

Additional Resources


Playlist: Speaking of Delaware…

MCAAH Harriet Tubman Day Virtual Program (2020)


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Mitchell Center for African American Heritage