Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Vigilance Committees

Passmore Williamson in Moyamensing Prison

A depiction of Passmore Williamson being held in Moyamensing Prison.

Passmore Williamson being held in prison on charges of contempt, after refusing to tell authorities where they could find Jane Johnson, a slave he helped to rescue. (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress

After helping William Still stage a daring rescue of Jane Johnson and her children, saving them from her master, John H. Wheeler, Passmore Williamson was held in Moyamensing Prison on charges of contempt of court after refusing to tell officials where they could find Johnson. He was eventually released after Wheeler dropped all charges against him. The imprisonment of a white man for helping an African American mother led the indifferent white community to begin to embrace the antislavery cause that the Vigilance Committees had been engaged in for decades.

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