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Thomas McCreary lived in Maryland’s Cecil County in the 19th Century and, in the 1840s and 1850s, he became widely known as a slave catcher, a man who would cross into the free state of Pennsylvania to nab black men, women and children he suspected of being runaway slaves. Sometimes they were; sometimes they were not. At a time of heightened tensions over slavery, McCreary’s exploits were decried by abolitionists and praised by those who defended slavery and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Cecil County historian Milt Diggins tells the story of McCreary and Rachel and Elizabeth Parker, the black sisters who were born free yet abducted by McCreary from Pennsylvania and taken to the Baltimore slave market. Diggins’ book, “Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line,” also tells of white neighbors of the Parkers who traveled to Baltimore to demand their release and McCreary’s prosecution.
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