Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Kenneth Fones-Wolf.


In the first half of the nineteenth century many blacks fled from slave states looking to escape the oppression of bondage. These people largely fell into two categories; the first group fled the oppression of bondage, and readily sought freedom by taking flight, while the latter group already free, sought to avoid the possibility of legal codes forcing them back into bondage. Between 1820 and 1870, two groups of black settlers arrived in Mercer County, Pennsylvania looking for a refuge from chattel slavery. Although each group arrived under different circumstances, they shared a common refugee experience. The historiography of black resettlement efforts in the North has focused on qualifying these efforts as either successes or failures. In doing so the studies of black resettlements usually views the settlements over a relatively brief period, depending upon the measure of success they met with. At the same time, the historiography has attempted to affix credit or blame for the relative successes and/or failures of the resettlement efforts. Furthermore, this approach at least portrays black refugees and their communities as passive victims and at most inept and unqualified to establish themselves socially and economically within the broader American community.;The duration of the physical settlements is less indicative of success or failure but rather the degree of usefulness and their ability to continue providing a refuge from slavery and self-determination. This work suggests that, not only is a more prolonged study needed, it is a necessity to better understand the black refugee experience. Only in studying these communities as a series of processes or steps in the refugee experience can historians better understand the black resettlement efforts of the early and mid 19th century. Although many blacks sought refuge in northern states like Pennsylvania, and frequently within white antislavery communities, they found themselves not always welcomed and sometimes struggled to adapt within the host communities. This dissertation then, explores the ebb and flow of optimism and disillusionment. It is also about the story of the formation, dissolution, and re-formation of rural black communities and the black refugee experience in the North.