News and Events: Archive:

Talk by noted historian Spencer R. Crew on: "The Still Family and the Underground Railroad,": Mon Feb. 23rd

"Escaping from Alabama on top of a car," from William Still, Underground Rail Road Records. Rev. ed. Philadelphia; William Still, 1886. Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Archives.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Charity Still escaped from a Chesapeake Bay plantation and traveled via the Underground Railroad to join her husband in Burlington County, New Jersey. Charity and Levin Still's son, Peter, whom she was forced to leave behind, became celebrated in northern newspapers as the "Man Who Bought His Freedom." Special Collections and University Archives holds a small collection of Peter Still's papers. Their youngest son, William, became an abolitionist, millionaire, and philanthropist. As an Underground Railroad conductor in Philadelphia, he helped hundreds of African Americans fleeing from the south. He recorded his experiences in the classic The Underground Railroad (1872). Another son, James, built a successful practice in herbal medicine in Medford, New Jersey. The Still family's many descendants continue to hold an annual family reunion in the historically-black community of Lawnside, New Jersey.

Noted historian Dr. Spencer Crew will explore this remarkable family's role in the Underground Railroad, the network of people and places that helped southern runaway slaves find freedom in the northern states and Canada. The twenty-fourth annual Louis Faugères Bishop III lecture will be held Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. in the Scholarly Communication Center on the fourth Floor of the Archibald S. Alexander Library in New Brunswick, and will be followed by a reception.

Spencer Crew has worked in public history institutions for more than twenty-five years. He served as president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati for six years and worked at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution for twenty years, nine those as director. At each of those institutions he sought to make history accessible to the public through innovative and inclusive exhibitions and public programs.

His most important exhibition was the ground breaking Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915–1940, which generated a national discussion about migration, race, and creating historical exhibitions. He also co- curated The American Presidency A Glorious Burden, which is one of the Smithsonian's most popular exhibitions. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has attracted worldwide attention because of the quality of its presentations and focus on race, interracial cooperation, and issues of contemporary slavery.

Crew has published extensively in the areas of African American and Public History. Among his publications are Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915–1940 (1987), and Black Life in Secondary Cities: A Comparative Analysis of the Black Communities of Camden and Elizabeth, N.J. 1860–1920 (1993). He co-authored The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden (2002) and Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives (2002).

Spencer Crew graduated from Brown University and holds a master's degree and a doctorate from Rutgers University. In 2003 he was inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He is currently the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of American, African American, and Public History at George Mason University in Virginia.

To RSVP, please call 732/932-7505 or email events@rci.rutgers.edu. If you need assistance with parking for this event, please indicate with your RSVP.

Posted February 5, 2009