RELIANCE, Md.- Delaware officials this week revealed a new historical marker at Reliance along the Delaware-Maryland line, dedicated to the victims of the reverse underground railroad.
The historical marker is in the general area of the Cannon-Johnson kidnapping gang's headquarters. Historians say the gang abducted hundreds of free people, selling them into slavery after the importation of slaves was outlawed in the early 19th century. The gang used the state and county divisions in this area to evade law enforcement. While much of the gang fled to the Deep South, authorities arrested Patty Cannon in 1829. She died in jail in Sussex County.
Kevin Brown, an adjunct history professor at Delaware Technical and Community College, had never heard the story of the Cannon-Johnson gang until he read Lies Across America in the late 1990s.
"It's not feel good history. We're talking about kidnapping free blacks, hundreds if not thousands of free blacks," Brown said. "It doesn't feel real good and people weren't telling the story, and I felt the story really needed to be told."
Brown pushed for this marker, which joins another memorial in Wilmington that is dedicated to those who lost their freedom.
James Loewen, the author of Lies Across America, attended the Delaware Public Archives' unveiling of the new marker. This memorial is dedicated to the victims of the "evil enterprise" and the people who struggled against it.
"I think across America there's an increasing number of people who are willing to face the, shall we say, the bad things we did rather than just take joy in the good things," Loewen said. "That way we're telling a more complete history."