May, Samuel J., letter, Syracuse, [N.Y.], July 15, 1853, to one or more unnamed residents of Syracuse


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The bearer of this is Peter Still. His story is a remarkable one, but well authenticated. I have examined all his papers, and have received letters testifying to his excellent character from persons who knew him in Alabama.

He was stolen from the banks of the Delaware River, when a child of five or six years of age; and sold into slavery in Kentucky. There he lived thirteen years; and was then sold and carried to Alabama and kept in slavery thirty one years longer. By extraordinary exertion and the greatest carefulness, he succeeded in accumulating five hundred dollars, which he paid to his master, and was set free.

He came to the North, and by a most singular providence, he found brothers and sisters living in Philadelphia, and his aged mother still alive in New Jersey, where he had left her when he was stolen.

Having recovered his own liberty, he is now eager to procure the freedom of his

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wife and children, two sons and a daughter. It is hoped that their liberation may be obtained for $3,500. This may seem to many a large sum; but what is it in comparison with the gift of liberty to four human beings? If every one who has heard or may hear Peter Still's story, will only give him what he or she can well afford, the sum will soon be raised.

About fifteen hundred dollars have already been collected, and Peter Still has now come to Syracuse, to ask assistance from the benevolent of this thriving city.

We the undersigned promise to pay this sum set against our names Peter Still, on his order, to be appropriated to the payment of the price demanded for the liberation of his wife sons, and daughter.

Syracuse July 15, 1853

Amount of collection taken July 17 in the Unitarian Church $33.66
Samuel J. May 5.00
Sundry persons by S.J.M. 5.00

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Sundry others in Syracuse have subscribed and paid Peter Still to the amount of one hundred and ten dollars – See his Book – He leaves us today and I cordially commend him to the benevolent everywhere.

Samuel J. May

July 27, 1853



May, Samuel J., letter, Syracuse, [N.Y.], July 15, 1853, to one or more unnamed residents of Syracuse


Letter of introduction and recommendation for Peter Still written by the Rev. Samuel J. May, which relates facts concerning Still’s biography; reports that Still is engaged in a quest to free his enslaved family members through purchase; notes that approximately 1,500 dollars of the 3,500 dollars necessary have already been obtained; provides space for subscriptions to be noted (none signed by others are listed); and states, in a postscript dated July 27, 1853, that 110 dollars have been raised on Still’s behalf in Syracuse.


Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries




public domain


3 p.




May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871, “May, Samuel J., letter, Syracuse, [N.Y.], July 15, 1853, to one or more unnamed residents of Syracuse,” Peter Still Digital Edition, accessed June 22, 2024,

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