A valuable collection of local photographs associated with the 1851 Christiana Resistance is on display at Harford Community College in Maryland during its “Faces of Freedom” celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the state 150 years ago.
Photographs and documents from the historical collection at Christiana’s Moores Memorial Library are on view, along with other photographs, panels, artifacts and manuscripts from the Historical Society of Harford County and private collections.
The exhibit is at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air, until May 10.
“Faces of Freedom” commemorates the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Maryland Constitution of 1864, which abolished slavery in the state.
The photographs from the Christiana Resistance Historical Collection at Moores Memorial Library are helping the college tell the story of the violent Sept. 11, 1851, skirmish which took place about 40 miles from Bel Air. The Christiana Resistance, then commonly referred to as a “riot,” happened on Lower Valley Road in Sadsbury Township when Maryland slave owner Edward Gorsuch attempted to reclaim his “property,” — William Parker and other fugitive slaves.
Gorsuch was shot dead during the skirmish, and locals who helped the slaves were charged with treason for violating the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. The Lancaster Saturday Express on Sept. 13, 1851, reported on the event with the headline, “Civil War, First Blow Struck.”
The former slaves escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad and when Lancaster abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens famously defended the locals in a federal trial, treason charges were dropped.