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Entrepreneur and Underground Railroad Conductor ~Rev. Peter Fossett (1815 -1901)

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The Gist of Freedom

The Gist of Freedom

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Join Historian and African American Artifacts Collector, Philip Merrill on The Gist of Freedom as he lectures on Rev. Peter Fossett and other historical related topics.

Entrepreneur and Underground Railroad Conductor ~Rev. Peter Fossett (1815 -1901)

At the age of 11, Fossett's life took a turn for the worst in 1826. On July 4, 1826, Jefferson died. While Jefferson freed Fossett's father in his will, the remainder of the Fossett family still remained in bondage, being sold at auction in January 1827.

Peter Fossett was enslaved by John R. Jones. Fossett's father attempted to purchase Peter's freedom, but Jones refused to sell his son Peter so him. In 1843, after purchasing several family members' freedom, Joseph Fossett moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, leaving Peter behind in Virginia still in bondage. Joseph Fossett made several trips back to Virginia to see his enslaved family members. Twice, Peter Fossett tried to run away to join his family in Ohio. Both times his owner recaptured him.

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In 1994, Philip Merrill founded the organization Nanny Jack & Company, an archives and consulting agency specializing in creating projects that illuminate the African American experience through memorabilia, oral history and research. The company would eventually house over 30,000 artifacts, including photographs, rare books, folk art, documents, music, dolls, furniture, and quilts. Nanny Jack & Company would go on to collaborate with various educational organizations and television channels, including The Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, the Discovery Channel, the Maryland Historical Society, Maryland Public Television, and the History Channel. In 1996, Merrill became an appraiser with the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) television show Antiques Roadshow.

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