"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."
- Chinese proverb
We chose "Candle in the Window" as our name and mission because in the times of fleeing slavery, a desperate man or woman knew they would get help at a home if they saw a light burning in the window late at night. Today, women in dire situations need that same kind of life-line, offering free, selfless help at a time when the government is once again supporting those who will hurt them.
Brief History of Abolition, the Underground Railroad and other relief efforts.
In the 1830s a handful of people shook up the American North from its indifference toward slavery. With the U.S. Congress maintaining a "gag" order on the subject, and frustrated abolitionists fighting among themselves, the peaceful united movement collapsed by 1840. From then till the Civil War (1861) there were 3 strands of Abolitionist: anti-political pacifists, political and violent. The Political group ran their first presidential candidate (James Gillespie Birney) in 1840 after Whig candidate William Henry Harrison backtracked and said he was "personally against slavery" but he could not impose his views on the nation. Meanwhile the Pacifist wing would continue to shun politics, although writers like William Lloyd Garrison gave the South the impression that "the wrath of God" would soon be dealt to them violently at the hands of Northerners. The Violent wing would also give the Cause a bad name, defending a printing press with guns (Elijah Lovejoy was killed doing it) and then with John Brown's failed violent revolt at Harper's Ferry.
When did men and women resort to the Underground Railroad?
Attempted escapes were few before 1840. But once it became clear that the government would remain completely closed to Abolitionist reasoning, enslaved men and women increasingly took matters into their own hands. They had already been patient for years, despite hearing legends about freedom in a land called Canada. With the breakdown of the united Abolitionist movement they began to escape in droves, and the success of former neighbors made more and more people bold enough to try.
Of course, the Federal Government tightened the laws and penalties, and put a great deal of money into capturing runaways, rather than examining the system and finding ways to truly remedy the situation. Government authorities even expected ordinary citizens to act against their consciences and betray runaways that had come to them for help. Regardless of their approach to changing laws or the system, all 3 abolitionist factions would provide shelter for the growing number of people fleeing for their lives. During the 20 years before the Civil War, more than 30,000 men and women would escape to Canada. Perhaps more than 100,000. How did they do it? Many were aided by people who opened their homes to them along the way.
In more recent history, brave men and women have made it their business to provide shelter and help for people who chose not to harm others in saving their own lives. Countries have included Armenia, Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Vietnam, Cuba, Korea, China, the then-Soviet Union, Serbia and others. The many genocides of the 20th century weren't only damaging to the victims. The perpetrators themselves did things they'd regret -- and which have taken decades to overcome and find healing, if they've even been able to reach that point; many have not. So many nations still live under the stigma of what they did to their defenseless victims and the damage is no less real at the individual level.
Won't you open your door and offer alternatives to young women who might otherwise do something they'll regret for the rest of their lives?