“History Detectives” Will Explore the Legend of Delmarva's Infamous Patty Cannon
Chestertown, MD, July 1, 2003 — Dr. Carol Wilson, associate professor of history at Washington College and author of Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865, has contributed her expertise to a new 10-episode Public Television series titled History Detectives. The fourth episode, which will air Thursday, July 17 at 8:00 pm on Maryland Public Television stations, will feature Wilson's research on the infamous Patty Cannon, the leader of a gang based on the Delmarva Peninsula during the early 19th century that made its living by kidnapping free African Americans and selling them into slavery. Wilson's book, published in 1994, includes a study of the activities of this notorious gang.
“Patty Cannon and her criminal exploits are the subject of much local mythology on Delmarva,” said Wilson, who served as a consultant to the show's producers and provided on air historical background on the activities of the Patty Cannon gang. Cannon and her ruthless band of kidnappers were based near the town of Reliance, Delaware, on the Dorchester County, Maryland line, where Cannon's house still stands.
“The history of the kidnapping of free African Americans in antebellum America is little known and studied,” said Wilson, whose 1994 book continues to be the only major scholarly work published on the subject. She was recently a panelist at a Smithsonian-sponsored conference on the Underground Railroad and shared her research on the “other” underground railroad in which thousands of free people were kidnapped and smuggled into slavery.
In 10 one-hour episodes of History Detectives, architects, historians and antiquarians will unlock the history behind any house or artifact. Using the latest technology combined with traditional investigative techniques History Detectives will make amazing discoveries about the homes and possessions of many ordinary Americans. Whether it's a family heirloom or a house with a mysterious past, the series will uncover the history on America's doorstep. Learn more about the series at www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives.