When Still was 23, he left the family farm in New Jersey for Philadelphia to seek his fortune. He arrived, friendless and with only five dollars in his pocket. Still taught himself to read so well, that in three years he was able to hold the position of secretary in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Still provided the all-white society with his views on how to aid fugitive slaves since, he had been one himself. He was such an asset to the group, that he was elected chairman in 1851 and he held the position for the next ten years. He also became chairman of the Vigilance Committee in 1852.
During this time, Still used his house as one of the busiest stations on the Underground Railroad. He was awakened hundreds of times during the night to provide fugitives with needed food and clothing. Still interviewed the fugitives and kept careful records of each so that family and friends might locate them. According to his records, William Still helped 649 slaves attain their freedom. In 1872, he published his records in a book entitled, The Underground Railroad.
In Philadelphia, Still founded an orphanage for the chidren of African-American soldiers and sailors. Then in 1860, he went into the stove business. Due to his success, he branched out into the coal business, earning the fortune he had moved to Philadelphia to seek. Still was later elected to the Philadelphia Board of Trade. In 1880, he was one of the organizers of the first African-American YMCA. After a long and prosperous life, William Still died in 1902.
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