Parts of Seaford set to be filmed for Underground Railroad video

Tubman’s Tilly Escape will be subject

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 11/19/21

SEAFORD — An enslaved woman’s well-documented escape to freedom with the help of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman will be featured in a video focusing in part on the route through Seaford.

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Parts of Seaford set to be filmed for Underground Railroad video

Tubman’s Tilly Escape will be subject

Posted

SEAFORD — An enslaved woman’s well-documented escape to freedom with the help of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman will be featured in a video focusing in part on the route through Seaford.

The “Tilly Escape” is the primary topic for filming scheduled in the city early next week, according to Seaford Museum curator Jim Blackwell.

The film is a collaboration with the city of Wilmington, which invited Seaford to participate.

“We have an invitation to get with the city of Wilmington to make a video about the Underground Railroad in Delaware,” said Mr. Blackwell. “That is the point of the movie. This is just the first section of it — the Tilly Escape story.”

A Delaware Public Archives historical marker, dedicated in 2014 at Gateway Park, tells the story of the Tilly Escape, considered by Tubman scholars to be her most complicated and clever escape attempt, named after a woman from Baltimore who Ms. Tubman assisted.

After being delayed a couple weeks, filming is tentatively scheduled Monday and Tuesday, he said.

The Gov. Ross Mansion, as well as the Seaford Museum, operated by the Seaford Historical Society, and areas along the Nanticoke River are probable venues for footage, Mr. Blackwell said.

“I’m going to show them the different places that we have,” he added. “We might go downriver, where there are no houses, like it would have been back in 1856. The river hasn’t changed substantially, so we’ll take some pictures of the river, what it might have looked like when she went through. It probably hasn’t changed in a lot of spots.”

At an October City Council meeting, Mr. Blackwell was granted permission to utilize Gateway Park and other points in the city, including the riverfront, for filming background and local scenery.

Mr. Blackwell said Seaford has secured $15,000 in grants, including a $10,000 contribution from the National Park Service, to support this project.

In June, the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program, in collaboration with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, announced the awarding of $180,000 in grants.

Seaford was one of 20 recipients of up to $10,000 each for projects that enhance the preservation, interpretation and research of the Underground Railroad, one of the nation’s first civil rights movements. Seaford’s funding is earmarked for the video, titled “Tilly Escape Site, Gateway to Freedom: Harriet Tubman’s Daring Escape Route Through Seaford.”

Delaware was home to miles of the Underground Railroad. Ms. Tubman, based in Dorchester County, Maryland, helped numerous enslaved individuals travel from the Maryland state line in western Kent County to freedom in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Blackwell said the significance of the Underground Railroad is promoted heavily in Maryland but not as much in Delaware.

“You see all of these state of Maryland Underground Railroad signs promoting it. And yet, it stops in Delaware. There is no mention of it,” said Mr. Blackwell. “You don’t hardly see any mention of Delaware. And yet, her travels came through here.”

Once filming is complete, Mr. Blackwell hopes to have at least the Tilly Escape segment accessible to patrons of the museum.

“I want it for the museum, so that when somebody comes in, they can see the story and the locations,” he said. “I think it will be a nice presentation for the town.”