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The cargo schooner could hold more than the enslaved members of the Bell and Edmondson families. Others learned of the daring plan and asked to join. Drayton accepted all those who could get on board by midnight. Casting off in the dark, they sailed down the Potomac, escaping to their freedom. The largest slave escape in the history of the United States was in progress.

41 slave owners in Washington, Maryland and Virginia awoke the next day to discover 77 people missing. Banding together on the steamer Salem, organized by the then Justice of the Peace, law enforcement officers and others, a posse of 35 armed white men headed out in hot pursuit of The Pearl. Winds pouring down the Chesapeake had forced The Pearl to anchor, waiting for a weather change, and the ship and its passengers were apprehended. The pursuit of family freedom was stymied, but many of the families on The Pearl survived and, when freedom came, they thrived.

Frederick Douglas is pictured above (left) with Mary and Emily Edmonson at the Cazenovia Fugitive Slave Law Convention in New York City.  This picture helps to illustrate how ethnically diverse the abolitionist movement had become.   The New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. Underground Railroad cell(s) were very involved in the planning, organization and implementation of the escape.  

People of faith and the church of that time served as the life blood for communications and the driving force behind the movement to abolish slavery locally and nationally.  The escape on the Pearl Schooner, reignited the abolitionist movement. Thus, led to a series of events and congressional and presidential  actions that later laid the foundation for the emancipation of slavery in Washington D.C., the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Civil War.  Read More.