My Contribution: I escaped the oppression of slavery to enjoy a life of freedom. Arrested by slave catchers in April 2, 1859 while shop- ping at the Harrisburg market, I was brought to trial in Philadelphia. Six Harrisburg residents came to testify on my behalf, including Dr. William Jones and notable abolitionists, and some 3,000 people showed up in support. I was acquitted in April 1859, and the city of Philadelphia erupted in celebration.
My Legacy: I left an important legacy about the fundamental value of freedom that generated widespread interest across the Commonwealth in the year before the start of the Civil War. I gained my freedom despite the inequitable Fugitive Slave Act. I generated in- credible enthusiasm for abolitionism as Pennsylvania communities of color and abolitionists rallied around my case: witnesses came from Harrisburg to testify, thousands gathered at the courthouse in Philadelphia, others gathered in prayer, and supporters raised $1,000 to purchase my freedom if the judge had not acquitted me.
About Me: “When the commissioner commenced, many sympathizing ladies, who were expecting that Daniel would be sent to Virginia, were ‘like Niobe, all tears.’ Presently their eyes brightened, as the Commissioner progressed, and when, finally, he ended by saying, in a calm, pleasant way, “The prisoner is being discharged,” one wild storm of applause broke it. It was in vain the officers called, or Marshal Yost screamed at the top of his voice. One weak lady with a very strong voice ran to the window and called out,— ‘He’s free! he’s free! Give three hearty cheers!’… A crowd of colored people took hold and paraded him around the streets, as was done to Fanny Ellsler many years ago. The enthusiasm was kept until a late hour of the night— general joy was manifested by his friends at the unexpected result…. For a time we really feared that the man would be smothered by his friends, not less than a thousand whom departed up Fifth street with Daniel borne upon the shoulders of a friend in the middle of the group.” — The Daily Exchange, April 8, 1859.
Full Name: Daniel Dangerfield (birthname); Daniel Webster
Birth Date: 1835
Place of Birth: Loudoun County, Virginia
Race: Black (1880 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: Loudoun County, Virginia; resident of Harrisburg for 79 years
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: numerous friends in the ward
Family Members: : Rose Webster. Children: Charles Webster and Mary Stroder
Education: Could not read or write
Occupations: Enslaved at birth. Fence-Maker. Laborer
Connections: Dr. William Jones