A Pearl of DC History


Washington, DC is known for a lot of things. One record of note, yet very rarely noted is that the largest known slavery escape attempt in the United States took place here in April 1848 on the ship known as the Pearl. The price of freedom was to be $100 for a brave man who chartered the boat to carry he, and his family down the Potomac River, then up the Chesapeake Bay to a new life. Other slaves heard of his plan and he accepted the requests from any slave that could make it to the Pearl by midnight to join him. The ship set sail shortly after midnight April 15 but weather forced it to anchor for some time before completing the journey. That idle time allowed for the slave owners just enough time to discover their human property gone and begin pursuit. The Pearl and all 77 escapees were captured.

The spirit of those who were not waiting to be saved but instead tried to save themselves lives on today through the work of the Pearl Coalition. The Pearl Coalition was founded in 2001 and has been rebuilding and maintenance of a replica of the Schooner Pearl and offering community programming. The Pearl Coalition has begun to conduct outreach to recruit youth and young adults living in Wards 6, 7 & 8 as facilitators and participants in Pearl programming involving community based, school based and ship based cultural presentations. Additional offerings are in the works to tell the heroic story of the people involved in this historic escape attempt and the resulting impact it has had on Washington DC and the Nation. Continue to keep an eye on the Pearl Coalition.


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