Liberating Americans Tour

Time Travel Tour to Your Ancestors Time Travel Tour the largest self-liberation from Washington DC - in the Pearl

Traveling back 15 years we move from Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln's meeting in the White House to 1848 when DC's thirty year focus on intense enslavement and abolition lobbying was about to be accelerated.

Beginning in the late 1820s, abolitionists organized a coordinated campaign to petition Congress to end slavery and the slave trade in the nation’s capital. The progress was too slow for those incarcerated in concentration camps. In 1831, Mr. Nat Turner executed 50 jailers and wardens in the hopes of expediting his release from bondage. This effort gave birth to a new nation, and sped up abolitionist petitions to Congress in the mid-1830s when thousands flooded the House of Representatives. The nation's enslavers fired back in August 1835 with local European-descent-owned newspapers reported that the District had its own “Nat Turner” in 18 year old Arthur Bowen. An Irish mob of mechanics gathered at the city jail, then located at Judiciary Square, and threatened to hang Bowen for bring accused of killing his enslaver. The Irish led this and most riots thru the Civil War as they felt threatened by African Descent Americans for jobs. Enslaving Wardens continued on by instituting the “Gag Rule” in 1836 Congress, banning the introduction of petitions or bills pertaining to enslavement.

Into this combustable mix, you will join the escape on the Pearl, to push the debate forward again as Mr. Turner had 17 years previous. You will join over 70 enslaved African Descent Americans attempting to escape your local concentration camps. The tour continues east from the White House crossing Swan River (Potomac), with a plan to sail 100 miles to Chesapeake Bay and then a further 120 miles to reach its northern harbor from which to race to freedom. On the 15th of April 1848, you will physically drive the principles of freedom into the heart of the Nation's capitol as the opposition will drive the nation toward Civil War. While the nation celebrates the liberation of a new french republic a nation within a nation celebrates the race towards liberation.

The Pearl's turmoil erupted in Congress 3 days after your escape. Representative Joshua Giddings of Ohio introduced a resolution asking why, in the light of the popular struggles for freedom in Europe, the Pearl fugitives were seen as criminal for attempting to enjoy the freedom for which America's forefathers had died. Rep. Isaac E. Holmes of South Carolina retorted that, if the House considered such a resolution, he would move to add an amendment inquiring why the "scoundrels who caused the slaves to be there ought not to be hung." A new congressman named Abraham Lincoln voted with the moderates to close debate continuing the 1836 gag rule.

Your escape on the Pearl will not be silenced, your energy will be channeled into the creation of the Free Soil party four months later as an extension of the escape believing "this Government has power, under the Constitution, to abolish every part of American slavery." The combined effect completely reversed Rep. Abraham Lincoln's public mindset as he unsuccessfully proposed a bill for the "compensated emancipation" of slaves in the District later in 1849.

The enslavers countered this by moving for America to create the African Kidnapping act of 1850. This act would empower enslavers to work anywhere in the US with the help of whichever citizens they call upon to reenslave escapees or anyone else they wish. This drove many African Descent Americans to flee to Canada. Two of your fellow escapees Mary and Emily Edmonson, participated in a counter-strike at the Cazenovia Fugitive Slave Law Convention in New York in 1850, and come up with the following resolution which was read aloud in Congress featuring the eloquence of Frederick Douglass who aslo participated therein.

"Afflicted and beloved Brothers: — The meeting which sends you this letter, is a meeting of runaway slaves. We thought it well that they who had once suffered as you still suffer, that they who had once drank of that bitterest of all bitter cups which you are still compelle....The heartless pirates who compelled us to call them “master” sought to persuade us, as such pirates seek to persuade you, that the condition of those who escape from their clutches is thereby made worse instead of better. ...We have referred to our perils and hardships in escaping from slavery. We are happy to be able to say, that every year is multiplying the facilities for leaving the Southern prison house. The Liberty Party, the Vigilance Committee of New York, individuals, and companies of individuals in various parts of the country, are doing all they can, and it is much, to afford you a safe and a cheap passage from slavery to liberty. They do this, however, not only at great expense of property, but at great peril of liberty and life. .. Do not abandon yourselves, as have many thousands of American slaves, to the crime of suicide. Live! Live to escape from slavery! Live to serve God! Live till He shall Himself call you into eternity! Be prayerful — be brave — be hopeful. “Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.”

Finally in 1862, now President Lincoln had the District's Concentration Camps were closed permanently.
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Paul Jennings Pearl Paul Jennings

Meet Paul Jennings who orchestrated the Pearl flight to freedom! To understand his participation you must travel back to his incarceration at the Montpelier Concentration Camp run by the fourth United States president. He won the trust of the President to shave his face everyday from 1809 to 1836 and provide him valet like forced labor. In that role Mr. Jennings was among the first chain gang to be enslaved in the newly built White House which had a dual purpose as a concentration camp at the time. In return for such service he was betrayed by the President's wife Dolly Madison broke her 1841 promise to liberate him upon her death. Worse yet he painfully watched as his family was transfered to other far off concentration camps. Instead of following her promise to Mr. Jennings made in her will, the enslavement profiteer Dolly secreted him away in the dark of night in an illicit concentration camp. Fortunately, Mr. Jennings had access to a network of assistance and soon Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, paid a ransom to liberate Jennings from this human trafficking and hired him as his assistant at 1603 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest where a statue of this liberator was erected in 1900. Mr. Jennings made the best of this liberation and took advantage of his open access to the Webster library to educate himself and traveled north with him frequently gaining a familiarity with paths to freedom and contact with the Underground Railroad. When his friends Mr. Bell and Mr. Edmonson explained their desperate plights, he began to help orchestrate their escapes. With his freedom he was able to travel to Philadelphia to hire the Pearl's captain Drayton. His role was never discovered and he was able to live out his life in Washington. Like their father three of Mr. Jennings' sons were able to take the underground railroad to freedom and join the USCT to fight for the liberation of the rest of their extended family! After the war John, Franklin, William and daughter Mary later joined him in Washington where Mr. Jennings had bought a lot and built a house at 1804 L Street, NW. Finally in 1865 Mr. Jennings is noted for publishing in 1865 the first White House Concentration Camp memoir.

Daniel Bell

Daniel Bell's urgent drive to escape to freedom with a family of 11 created the basis for the Pearl escape and caused him to spend a half a year's wages to finance it. He had recently paid his kidnapping ransom a year earlier and was working as a blacksmith at the DC Navy Yard. Eleven members of his family, including his wife, children and grandchildren were legally liberated from enslavement 10 years prior to the Escape in the Pearl with the death of Robert Armstead their warden by his will. Another jailer successfully contested the liberation in court, citing that their loss would impoverish the concentration camp. This jailer was set to transfer Mr. Bell's children! Out of this urgency, was born the need for a rapid solution to escape with such a great number before they were separated. Mr. Bell had reason for optimism, earlier in 1846, his ensalver had attempted to transfer him away from his wife and children, and he fought this in court and was eventually able to pay a ransom and be liberated from enslavement in 1847. When the Pearl was apprehended his wife and children were coffled to Balitmore for transfer to new far off Concentration camps. He had the horrific choice of which Ransoms he would pay with the support of the network which helped raise the funds, and tragically returned to Washington with his wife Mary Bell, Thomas who was three and one other young child of theirs. Two of their children Carolina and Eleanora were liberated in the 1862 District of Columbia Emancipation Act the Pearl escape helped foster!

Samuel Edmonson Pearl Samuel Edmonson

Mr. Bell and Mr. Jennings, third partner in the escape of the Pearl was Mr. Samuel Edmonson. Like Mr. Bell he had great urgency to his need to escape en masse. Fifteen years earlier his brother Hamilton had been transfered to a concentration camp in New Orleans horrifically breaking off their communication and close association. After that Mr. Edmonson's father worked desperately with his children and a network of supporters to begin paying the ransom for their kidnappings before they were transfered away into the transnational state sponsored concentration camp system. Their warden decided to stop this practice, leaving six in danger of transfer away from their family: children Mary, Emily, Samuel, Ephraim, Richard and John. Mr. Samuel Edmonson then began working with Mr. Bell and Mr. Jennings to find a way to take seventeen at once, making their number too large to pursue traditional escape routes. Their boat strategy ended up being able to assist another sixty!

After being captured back into kidnapping, Samuel like Hamilton was trasnfered to New Orleans. Mr. Edmonson kept fighting and was able to escape from New Orleans and from there to England and Australia. After the war he returned to Washington DC with his wife and 3 children born abroad. He lived to 1907.

Liberated Abolitionists

Frederick Douglas is pictured above with Mary and Emily Edmonson at the Cazenovia Fugitive Slave Law Convention in New York City two years after the strike for freedom on August 21 1850. The liberated Edmondson's were working hard to protect others who successfully self-liberated like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman from being recaptured. For even as the Pearl exposed the lie of the concentration camp system and helped strengthen the movement for liberation which would see DC end enslavement 12 years later, in the summer of 1850, they had not yet changed the public sentiment en masse; Congress staffed by the wardens of America's state-sponsored concentration camps including the infamous Wye camp we will visit shortly, were horrifically debating a new and harsher Liberated African Descent American Kidnapping Law. In response, Mary and Emily and other abolitionists gathered in the upstate New York to take action against the bill. Attendance was so high ⎯ over two thousand people including about fifty liberated Americans of African descent ⎯ that the main session was held in an apple orchard (pictured above). The convention adopted this “Letter to the American Slaves,” which Frederick Douglass helped write, which was read aloud in Congress on September 18, 1850, a month after the convention. Yet the Concentration Camp wardens still passed the Liberated African Descent American Kidnapping Act.

"Afflicted and beloved Brothers: — The meeting which sends you this letter, is a meeting of runaway slaves. We thought it well that they who had once suffered as you still suffer, that they who had once drank of that bitterest of all bitter cups which you are still compelled to drink of, should come together for the purpose of making a communication to you.

The chief object of this meeting is to tell you what circumstances we find ourselves in — that so you may be able to judge for yourselves whether the prize we have obtained is worth the peril of the attempt to obtain it.

The heartless pirates who compelled us to call them “master” sought to persuade us, as such pirates seek to persuade you, that the condition of those who escape from their clutches is thereby made worse instead of better. But owing to the happy change in our circumstances, we are not as ignorant and credulous now as we once were; and if we did not know it before, we know it now, that slaveholders are as great liars as they are great tyrants. . . . In dark nights, when his good guiding star is hidden from the flying slave, a pocket compass greatly facilitates his exodus. ...When the insurrection of the Southern slaves shall take place, as take place it will unless speedily prevented by voluntary emancipation, the great mass of the colored men of the North, however much to the grief of any of us, will be found by your side, with deep-stored and long-accumulated revenge in their hearts, and with death-dealing weapons in their hands. . . A regenerated public sentiment has forever removed these States beyond the limits of the slaveholders’ hunting ground. Defeat — disgrace — and it may be death — will be their only reward for pursuing their prey into this abolitionized portion of our country. . ."

The time travel will continue back 32 years to when and where the great man who wrote these words was born to understand how and why he came to write them.

Time Travel Reservations

The following departures are available for you and your friends or family:
African American History Month Liberation Tour on February 18 2017 from 8am to 4pm EST in Washington DC
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