William Still was born in New Jersey as a free-man. His father had purchased his own freedom to allow his children and wife to avoid the suffering he had went through as a slave. William had little education, and began working as a janitor for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.
He began helping fugitive slaves escape to find freedom, and find there way North. Out of random luck he happened to help a fugitive slave named Peter. This very man also happened to be his brother who was left behind when his mother escaped slavery all those year ago. While doing this he still managed to have his own successful shop.
After the Civil War, William Still destroyed most of the records of all the fugitives he helped, because he was scared that one day it would be used against them to kill or arrest. Yet, his children ended up persuading him to write a book about it and his book became one of the most important pieces of US history.