It was an April evening in 1848. More than 70 enslaved people quietly left their homes. They headed toward a sailboat. It was docked in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The ship was called the Pearl. These people were searching for freedom.

It was a brave plan. They would sail south on the Potomac River. Then they would sail north to New Jersey. The trip was about 360 kilometers (225 miles).

The Pearl had not sailed far before the wind died down. The sails went flat. The ship dropped anchor so the tide would not push it back up the river.

Meanwhile, the slave owners saw that their slaves were gone. They were angry. They began a search. Their steamboat soon found the Pearl. The slaves were captured and taken back into slavery.

There were two teenage sisters on board, Mary and Emily Edmonson. Four of their brothers‑Samuel, Ephraim, Richard, and John‑were also there. I wanted to learn more about them.

Washington, D.C.



Pearl Captured here


St. Mary’s

Potomac River