University of Pittsburgh
February 7, 2013

University of Pittsburgh to Make Items From Its Award-Winning “Free at Last?” Exhibition Available for Use by Area Museums

Exhibition, displayed at the Heinz History Center in 2008-09, explored little-known fact that slavery persisted in this region in the pre-Civil War years

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

High resolution image(s) available >

PITTSBURGH—Portions of the University of Pittsburgh-sponsored exhibition "Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries," which was on display from October 2008 through April 2009 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, will live on so that they may be used by curators and researchers, and seen by museum visitors throughout the region.

Later this spring, Pitt will make the exhibition’s graphics, interpretive panels, props, cases, and other items available to curators at other exhibition venues in Western Pennsylvania. The distribution will be coordinated by the Heinz History Center Affiliates’ office. Interested organizations may contact Robert Stakeley at 412-454-6359 or An inventory of more than 165 available items can be viewed at

"Free at Last?" wrote a new chapter in the early history of race relations in this region by exploring the little-known fact that slavery persisted in Western Pennsylvania through the years leading up to the Civil War. The exhibition centered on 55 handwritten recordsA portion of the Free at Last? Exhibition that was shown at the Heinz History Center from Oct. 2008 to April 2009 of legal transactions in Pittsburgh between 1792 and 1857 that were discovered in 2007 by staff in the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds Office, and donated to the Heinz History Center by then-Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts. Those faded records document this area's decades-long involvement with Black slavery and indentured servitude.

The exhibition, created by Pitt's Office of Public Affairs, won six 2009 Golden Triangle Awards from the International Association of Business Communicators, including the award for Best of Show.

After the exhibition was dismantled, a team from Pitt’s University Library System created a virtual tour of the exhibition so that its content could continue to be accessible to scholars, school students, and the general public.

Visit to experience the tour.



A portion of the Free at Last? Exhibition that was shown at the Heinz History Center from Oct. 2008 to April 2009

Runaway slaves Ellen and William Craft fled Macon, Ga. In 1848. Ellen disguised herself as a sickly white gentleman traveling with his manservant (William).