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Man who helped slaves escape pardoned 168 years after conviction

  • Ocea Thomas poses for a portrait with a picture of her ancestor Samuel Burris.

    Ocea Thomas poses for a portrait with a picture of her ancestor Samuel Burris.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Descendants of Samuel D. Burris, including Ocea Thomas, far left, and Ralph D. Smith, far right, look on as Delaware Gov. Jack Markell prepares to posthumously pardon Burris.

    Descendants of Samuel D. Burris, including Ocea Thomas, far left, and Ralph D. Smith, far right, look on as Delaware Gov. Jack Markell prepares to posthumously pardon Burris.  (AP Photo/Randall Chase)

Exactly 168 years after he was convicted, a black man who risked and lost his own freedom to help others escape slavery has been pardoned by Delaware's governor.

Gov. Jack Markell posthumously pardoned Samuel D. Burris on Monday in a ceremony at the Old State House in Dover, the very spot where Burris was found guilty on Nov. 2, 1847, of helping slaves escape.

Several of Burris's descendants were on hand for the event, which included the unveiling of a new historical marker honoring Burris, a free black man from Kent County.

Burris's sentence included that he be sold into servitude for 14 years, seven years for each of the two convictions, but abolitionists bought him with $500 in gold and set him free.