Sam Kerson........Muralist
The Underground Railroad
Columbus at the Gates of Paradise
Todo Sera Mejor
Vermont and the Fugitive Slave
located at the Chase Community Center at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont USA, May, 1993
located in the Skylight conference room at the state Human Service Agency in Waterbury, Vermont USA, 1992
located at the Centro Deportivo de los Trabajadores Sandinistas Masaya, Nicaragua, February 1990
Thanks to the Puffin Foundation
Thanks to the Puffin Foundation
The Underground Railroad
Vermont and the Fugitive Slave
Welcome to the e-room describing the mural: "The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave. This mural celebrates the efforts of black and white Americans in Vermont and throughtout the United States to achieve freedom and justice.
Sam Kerson painted this mural during the year of 1993 with his assistants , Heidi Broner, Kenny Hughes and Fredd Lee. The project was awarded a seed grant by the Puffin Foundation. The mural consists of two 8' X 24' panels with four scenes in each panel. It is located at the Chase Community center at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont USA.
Photos by Phillip Danzig
This first panel depicts the enslavement in Africa:
In the first scene, Africans are forced into captivity and deported to America;
The second scene, depicts a slave auction.

While the third scene represents the brutal working life slaves experienced

in the fourth scene, The Peoples' resistance to slavery is symbolized by both physical rebellion and the resurgence of African culture via drums, masks and costumes.
The Second panel discusses abolition. This panel is also a continuous 8' X 24' but we have chosen to show you close up views of the four sections
In the first scene, three well-know figures and a group of anti-slavery protesters represent the gathering forces of the national abolition movement in the decades before the Civil War. In the upper left, abolitionists protest against slavery. In the upper right, John Brown is shown. Brown was hanged for treason after he led a raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers' Ferry, W.Va., as part of a plan to incite an armed slave revolt.

In the middle section, Frederic Douglas speaks forcefully in favor of abolition. Douglas was asked by president Lincoln to be in charge of advising slaves to escape from rebel territory during the war.

In the lower section, Harriet Beecher Stowe writes a letter urging women and children to join the abolitionist cause. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin brought home to many readers the suffering caused by slavery.

In the second scene, a group of escaped slaves that have crossed into Vermont discuss their route to the next station on the Underground Railroad, as they head north toward Canada.

The central figure is Harriet Tubman an escaped slave who returned to the south again and again to lead other slaves to freedom.

In the third scene, a South Royalton woman attempts to block a slave hunter's view of a group of fugitives, moments before they are discovered by the slaver's dogs. The village in the background is closely based on historic photographs of South Royalton
In the final scene, a group of freedom-seeking slaves departs from Montpelier for the Canadian border. Montpelier was a major station on the Underground Railroad and center for much abolitionist activity, including numerous resolutions and laws passed by the state legislature that advocated national abolition of slavery and made it very difficult for slave owners to reclaim escaped slaves.
Vermont, Abolition, and the Underground Railroad: 1777 - 1860

Vermont has a long history of opposition to slavery. Many Vermonters opposed slavery and assisted runaway slaves throughout the pre-Civil War period. In 1777, Vermont's constitution became the first in the country to abosish slavery. While the federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 supported he "rights" of Slave-owners to reclaim their "property" in any state of the Union, many Vermonters secretly or openly resisted the law, and the legislature and the courts made it as difficult as possible for slave-owners to remove escaped slaves from Vermont.

Judge Theophilus Harrington was a farmer who lived in Clarendon and served as Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court from 1803-1813. In one case he tried at Middlebury, a slave owner came to Harrington to recover a slave who had escaped to Vermont. The slave owner showed bills of sale for both the slave and for the slave's mother. Harrington said, "You do not go back to the original proprietor." When the slaver's attorney asked what he would need for proof of ownership, Harrington replied, "A bill of sale from God Almighty!" The escaped slave was set free.
By 1836 there were 89 anti-slavery societies active in Vermont. In 1840 many of these fervent abolitionists formed the Liberty Party and successfully proposed a personal liberty law that guaranteed fugitives an attorney, required first that the slaver post $1,000 bond and then be fined if he lost the case. If the slaver further attempted to capture the fugitive, he was liable for kidnapping.
In 1842, the state legislature passed resolutions favoring a Constitutional amendment to abolish slavery and bar admittance to the Union, of states allowing slavery. Resolutions calling for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, for the abolition of slavery and for barring slave states from joining the Union continued throughtout the pre-Civil War period. In 1843, the 1840 act was replaced by a strengthened act that also barred sheriffs, jailers and citizens from holding or detaining fugitives.
In 1850, the state legislature resolved to use constitutional means to repeal or modify the Fugitive Slave Law at the national level and guaranteed fugitives in Vermont the right to habeas corpus and a trial by jury. It also required immediate notification of state's attorneys so that they could defend the fugitives.
The Underground Railroad was especially active in Vermont from 1830 to 1860. Most of the fugitives who went to Canada through New England passed through Vermont, with the majority passing on the route from Brattleboro to Montpelier. While there are no clear records on the total number of fugitives to pass through Vermont, one Underground Railroad agent in Norwich, which was not one of the main routes, assisted 600 escaped slaves.
text written by Marv Klassen-Landis
"The Underground Railroad: Vermont and the Fugitive Slave" ... the Video of the Making of the mural ...click here for more info
Questions, ideas or if you have a wall ready to be painted.....contact sam@dragondancetheatre.net
More Murals by Sam Kerson
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