Father of the Underground Railroad

In 2012, PBS aired a documentary chronicled the life and legacy of a man known in his time as the “Father of the Underground Railroad.”

Posted January 23, 2012

To learn more about the film, we spoke to executive producer Gordon Henderson. Henderson began his career as a journalist and parliamentary correspondent, and is the founder and president of 90th Parallel Productions. History-enthusiasts may recognize his name as the series producer for the CBC’s Canada: A People’s History.

William Still (c. 1821–1902) was an abolitionist and civil rights activist who helped countless black slaves find freedom in Canada. Perhaps even more important, were the diligent records he kept of the people he helped along the way. In 1872, Still compiled the biographical details, personal narratives, and letters of over 600 fugitive slaves and published The Underground Railroad Records. This work became both a powerful anti-slavery testament and an invaluable historical document.

The one hour documentary, Underground Railroad: The William Still Story, was produced by 90th Parallel Productions in association with Rodgers Broadcasting and WNED-TV Buffalo/Toronto. The film features the talented Dion Johnstone in the role of William Still, and also relies on historical consultants and primary documents to bring life to the people and stories contained within Still’s papers. In telling about the struggles and achievements of America’s fugitive slaves, Underground Railroad remembers the important role that Canada played in helping them find freedom.

You can help share stories of Canada’s diverse history

Thanks to Section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada became the first country in the world to recognize multiculturalism in its Constitution. With your help, we can continue to share voices from the past that were previously silenced or ignored.


We highlight our nation’s diverse past by telling stories that illuminate the people, places, and events that unite us as Canadians, and by making those stories accessible to everyone through our free online content.


Canada’s History is a registered charity that depends on contributions from readers like you to share inspiring and informative stories with students and citizens of all ages — award-winning stories written by Canada’s top historians, authors, journalists, and history enthusiasts.


Any amount helps, or better yet, start a monthly donation today. Your support makes all the difference. Thank you!

Related content:

Skip social share links

Related to Politics & Law