William Still’s narratives provided many examples of the cruelty, brutality, and dehumanization that drove men and women take the risk of escaping, and a good number of those examples have been noted in this blog. The story of Perry Johnson of Elkton provides yet another example.
Underground Railroad, William Still, 64
PERRY JOHNSON, OF ELKTON, MARYLAND
EYE KNOCKED OUT, ETC.
Perry's exit was in November, 1853. He was owned by Charles Johnson, who lived at Elkton. The infliction of a severe "flogging" from the hand of his master awakened Perry to consider the importance of the U. G. R. R. Perry had the misfortune to let a "load of fodder upset," about which his master became exasperated, and in his agitated state of mind he succeeded in affixing a number of very ugly stationary marks on Perry's back. However, this was no new thing. Indeed he had suffered at the hands of his mistress even far more keenly than from these "ugly marks."
He had but one eye; the other he had been deprived of by a terrible stroke with a cowhide in the "hand of his mistress." This lady he pronounced to be a "perfect savage," and added that "she was in the habit of cowhiding any of her slaves whenever she felt like it, which was quite often." Perry was about twenty-eight years of age and a man of promise. The Committee attended to his wants and forwarded him on North.