Railton Freeman

Railton Freeman

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Railton Freeman was born in Newbury on 6th October, 1903. His father was Commander Fletcher Freeman of the Royal Navy. Educated at St Helens College, Southsea he entered Sandhurst Military Academy in 1922.

Freeman was commissioned into the king's Own Royal Regiment as a second lieutenant in August 1924. Two years later he was posted to the RAF flying school near Chester. The following year he was transferred to the Royal Air Force as a flying officer.

In 1931 Freeman retired from military service and bought an estate in Gloucestershire where he became a farmer. He developed extreme right wing political views and in 1937 he joined the British Union of Fascists.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Freeman he was recalled by the RAF and became a flying instructor with No. 24 Squadron. On 22nd May, 1940, Freeman was ordered to fly with his squadron from Croydon to Merville. Soon after arriving in Merville his aircraft crash-landed and he was captured by German soldiers.

Freeman was taken to Stalag IIa in Neu-Brandenburg. His fascist views soon became known to the Nazis and he was transferred to Frankfurt. Later he was recruited by the German Radio Corporation and took part in the 'German Calling' programme. The main presenter of this propaganda was William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw). Freeman shared an office with another British traitor, Norman Baillie-Stewart.

In October 1944 Freeman joined the Waffen-SS. His main role was to vet propaganda material being prepared for the British armed forces. Freeman was captured by allied troops on 9th May, 1945.

Freeman was found guilty of treason and was sent to prison for ten years. He told his lawyer: "This just shows how rotten this democratic country is. The Germans would have had the honesty to shoot me."

Ancestry is a major source of information if you are filling out your Railton family tree. A vast range of data is available to search ranging from census records, births, deaths and marriages, military records and immigration records to name but a few. Free trials are normally available and are a good way to fill out a lot of your tree quickly.

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Mysterious British SS-PK member

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 24 Sep 2005, 14:32

Post by WAR LORD » 24 Sep 2005, 18:09

Freeman Benson Railton Metcalf - SS-Untersturmführer
6 October 1903
Party Number SS Number

He was born at Newbury, Berkshire, the son of a serving officer and lived in Portsmouth until he was 18, attending St. Helen’s College in Southsea and later Newton College Devon. In 1922 he entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, being commissioned in August 1924 into the Kings own Royal Regiment as a second Lieutenant. He developed an interest in flying and in September 1926 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and posted to an RAF flying school near Chester. He qualified as a fighter pilot, transferring to the RAF. In 1931 he retired, taking up farming, which gave him time to develop his political views. 1937 saw him join the BUF, remaining a member until the war. Even though he became very agitated due to the conflict of loyalties the war produced he returned to service with the RAF, assuming he was to hold a non-combatants position. Events overtook eventualities on the 22 May 1940, when ordered to fly to Merville, where on landing the planes were destroyed by enemy air action. Freeman, accompanied by other RAF personnel, ordered a DC3 for England only to be forced down by ground fire, being taken prisoner. He was taken into Luftwaffe captivity and moved to a special camp set up to extract information from newly captured air crew. However it seems that his incarceration was due to his pro-Nazi views. His position in the camp became increasingly uneasy and he was concerned to discover that air crew were being informed in briefings by MI9 that he was “a German informer”. Eventually, after a number of heated disagreements with other prisoners he and a few others were asked to sign a document requesting their removal from the camp. He was eventually taken to Berlin to meet Hesse, who asked him if he was prepared to help in the “promotion of peace and the frustration of Bolshevist plans”. Freeman agreed. In June 1942 he became a propagandist and the next two years were a disaster for him and his employers. In September 1944 a chance meeting with d’Alquen at a social function in Berlin changed his resolve. Taking a liking to Freeman and having joint views on the likelihood of the German defeat in the East, d’Alquen offered him a commission in the “Kurt Eggers Regiment”. Freeman joined the Waffen-SS in October 1944, where he made a declaration that he was “an Englishman of Aryan descent and have never, neither now nor previously, been a member of a free masons lodge nor any other secret society.” He was not required to command troops, but to vet propaganda material being prepared for use in scorpion west. He had found his ideological niche as an SS officer. By the end of April 1945 d’Alquen decided to evacuate his remaining staff from Berlin. He went with his deputy Sturmbannführer Anton Kriegbaum, American SS-Hauptsturmführer Ackermann, and Freeman. Commandeering three Stork planes they flew to Lenggries in south west Germany. Persuasion was placed on Freeman to fly to Switzerland, but he refused and subsequently surrendered to American forces in the area on the 9 May. He was court-martialled, receiving a sentence of 10 years.

Considering History: Slavery, Race, and the Declaration of Independence

Ben Railton explores the complex intersections of race and the Declaration, historical moments and figures that embody both the limitations and the possibilities of America’s ideals.

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This column by American studies professor Ben Railton explores the connections between America’s past and present.

Thomas Jefferson. (Rembrandt Peale, White House Historical Association)

As with so many historical debates in our 21 st century moment, the question of race and the Declaration of Independence has become a divided and often overtly partisan one. Those working to highlight and challenge social and cultural injustices will note that Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration and its “All men are created equal” sentiment, was, like many of his fellow Revolutionary Founders, a slave-owner, and moreover one who almost certainly fathered illegitimate children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. In response, those looking to defend Jefferson and the nation’s founding ideals will push back on these histories as anachronistic, overly simplistic, or exemplifying the worst forms of “revisionist history.”

If we push beyond those divided perspectives, however, we can find a trio of more complex intersections of race and the Declaration, historical moments and figures that embody both the limitations and the possibilities of America’s ideals. Each can become part of what we remember on the Fourth of July taken together, they offer a nicely rounded picture of our evolving community.

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For one thing, Jefferson did directly engage with slavery in his initial draft of the Declaration. He did so by turning the practice of slavery into one of his litany of critiques of King George:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither. … And he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

Jefferson here both blames the king of England for bringing the human horrors of chattel slavery to America, and expresses the fear that England will now use those same slaves as part of their conflict with the colonial revolutionaries. That latter critique did have a particular historical context: the British colonial governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, had issue a November 1775 proclamation that offered freedom to slaves and other “bonded servants” if they fought for the British against the rebels. But by putting this individual moment into the Declaration, Jefferson overtly framed not just Dunmore’s idea but slavery itself in opposition to both the Revolution and a new American identity. That is, his draft paragraph defines this “distant people” as having been “obtruded” upon the colonists, an artificial and foreign community whose human desire for “liberty” in this framing represents a direct and violent threat to the American project.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence. (John Trumbull)

Not surprisingly, this complex, contradictory paragraph did not survive the Declaration’s communal revisions, and the final document makes no mention of slavery or African Americans. Yet the absence of race from the final draft of the Declaration did not keep Revolutionary-era African Americans from using the document’s language and ideals for their own political and social purposes. As early as 1777, a group of Massachusetts slaves and their abolitionist allies brought a petition for freedom based directly on the Declaration before the Massachusetts legislature. “Your petitioners … cannot but express their astonishment,” they wrote, “that it has never been considered that every principle from which America has acted in the course of their unhappy difficulties with Great Britain pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your petitioners.”

Elizabeth Freeman. (Susan Anne Ridley Sedgwick)

When Massachusetts drafted its own 1780 state constitution, the first in the new nation, it began with a direct echo of the Declaration: its Article 1 opens “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.” Enshrining that concept in the state’s legal framework added more ammunition to slave petitions. And between 1781 and 1783, two Massachusetts slaves, Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker, worked with abolitionist allies to bring legal suits for their freedom, leading to a groundbreaking 1783 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that declared slavery incompatible with both the Massachusetts Constitution and American ideals. With the Revolution and America’s political future still unfolding, these slaves and cases made clear that, elisions from the Declaration notwithstanding, the new nation’s ideals and actions would influence all of its communities.

Although Massachusetts never passed a law rendering slavery illegal, thanks to the Freeman and Walker cases and the 1783 ruling, slavery disappeared entirely from the state: the 1790 census included no slaves, making Massachusetts the first state to abolish slavery (others such as Pennsylvania passed abolitionist laws in the same era, but because they only affected those born after their passage, many African Americans remained enslaved in these states for decades). The nation as a whole did not follow Massachusetts’ example in the aftermath of the Revolution, however. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution solidified the legality of slavery by defining slaves as 3/5ths of a person for the purposes of state populations and political representations.

Frederick Douglass. (George Kendall Warren)

Yet the debate over race and the nation’s founding ideals did not cease, and more than 75 years after the Declaration, Frederick Douglass gave voice to the most impassioned and potent argument in that ongoing debate. In his speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” delivered at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall on July 5, 1852, and later renamed “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?,” Douglass lays into the hypocrisies and ironies of the occasion and holiday. “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?,” he inquires, adding “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” Yet as he did throughout his long career, Douglass weds such biting critiques to powerful arguments for the urgency of moving toward a more perfect union, one inspired by our national ideals. “I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope,” he concludes. “While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”

Those tendencies did indeed result in the abolition of American slavery, an abolition begun by the same president who once more called upon the Declaration’s moment and history in his famous “Four score and seven years ago” opening to the Gettysburg Address. Yet as recent events have so fully reminded us, the debate over race and American identity and ideals and the role of slavery within those histories continues. As we celebrate the Fourth of July this year, remember not only Jefferson and his cohort, but also Elizabeth Freeman, Quock Walker, and Frederick Douglass, each in their own vital ways part of the nation’s Revolutionary founding.

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The language of protest: Race, rioting, and the memory of Ferguson

In the wake of last week’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, Americans came together in more than 170 protests across the country.

Many of these protests were peaceful. In Boston, upwards of 1,000 people gathered to condemn the decision. In Chicago, students staged a sit-in outside the mayor’s office. In Philadelphia, demonstrators marched from City Hall to the corner of Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, site of the 1964 unrest during which, as historian Dan Royles writes, “anger over racist policing, economic inequality, and the slow pace of political change boiled over into a mass rebellion that ended in hundreds of arrests, two deaths, and millions of dollars in property damage.”

In some places, Ferguson protests became violent. In San Francisco, there were reports of demonstrators throwing bricks and bottles at police officers. And in the town of Ferguson, people threw bricks and set a dozen buildings on fire following last Monday’s announcement. As Reverend Osagyefo Sekou said of the demonstrations, “you didn’t just see buildings burning last night, you saw democracy on fire. We had peaceful protests for 108 days and the police didn’t respond to that. We are talking about a traumatized, grieving community. People feel like America doesn’t love black and brown children.”

Media outlets have described these violent episodes as riots. A Washington Post headline reads “Street Finally Reopens Four Days after Ferguson Riots.” Paul Lewis of The Guardian writes, “after attending the White House meeting, Holder traveled to Atlanta for a series of meetings the administration is holding to discuss policing in the aftermath of the Ferguson riots.”According to a reporter for Fox News, “A group of black Ferguson residents armed with high-powered rifles stood outside a white-owned business in the city during recent riots, protecting it from rioters that looted and burned other businesses.”

The word “riot” has a long and complicated history in the United States. According to scholar Ben Railton, the origins of the term as applied to racialized unrest date back to November 1898, when white residents of Wilmington, North Carolina brutalized members of the city’s black community. Weeks later, says Railton, “Alfred Waddell, a former Confederate officer and one of the supremacist leaders, wrote ‘The Story of the Wilmington, N.C., Race Riots’ for the popular publication Collier’s. Waddell’s story, accompanied by H. Ditzler’s cover illustration of marauding armed African Americans, led to the designation of the coup and massacre as a ‘race riot,’ a description that has continued to this day.”

As Railton writes, through the first half of the 20th century, similar episodes took places in cities across the country. In Tulsa, Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit, white mobs tore through African American communities, beating and killing residents and wreaking havoc on homes and businesses.

The term “riot” connoted violence, aggression, property damage, and fear. And in the 1960s, white political leaders strategically co-opted the word and applied it to unrest in African American communities in order to delegitimize black protest movements.

In northern cities, the years following the Second World War saw widespread social mobilizing as African Americans sought to change the political, legal, and economic conditions under which they had been living for decades.

World War II saw a period of significant racial transition in the US the war had given way to a sense that Americans couldn’t fight fascism abroad without contending with issues of racism at home, and across the nation there emerged a growing consciousness about civil rights among both white and black Americans.

This awareness about racial justice took shape at a moment when African Americans were experiencing the erosion of the material advancements that had briefly arisen during the war. By mid-century, black communities faced deteriorating housing, rising unemployment, failing schools, and a pervasive lack of political representation in cities across the country.

In 1964, Andrew Freeman, president of the National Urban League, called Philadelphia a “racial tinderbox.” Between high unemployment and substandard housing, the city had all the ingredients of disaster, said Freeman. “Consigned to street corners,” he warned, “the young Negro is building up a store of frustration and resentment.”

According to historian Ashley Williams, between 1965 and 1968, the United States saw 329 instances of urban unrest in 257 cities. These protests resulted in close to 300 deaths, 60,000 arrests, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

“Rioters continued to attack vehicles…,” said a California Governor’s Commission report in 1965. The Commission, led by former US Director of Central Intelligence John McCone, formed in response to the unrest in Watts that August. “Some spectators described the crowd as having the appearance of a carnival, with persons acting with abandon and some spectators apparently enjoying the activity as if it were a sporting event.”

Reporting on the events in Newark in 1967, New York Times staffer Homer Bigart wrote, “the governor again said that the riots were not caused by a spontaneous uprising against unemployment, squalid housing, and general hopelessness – as negro leaders insist – but were an outbreak by a ‘vicious criminal element.’”

Labeling these episodes as “riots” had profound implications for the affected cities in the decades to follow.

The identification of “riot” spaces, writes activist Toivo Asheeke, “holds an inordinate amount of importance on whether one interprets… events as justified or not.” According to legal scholar Walter Olson, in many such areas, riotous associations of 1960s unrest took decades from which to recover. In addition to the immediate property damages, these cities faced reputations of violence, depreciating property values, and redlining.

We don’t yet know how Ferguson will be memorialized. Will we remember the demonstrations as legitimate protests against structural inequality, or will it be marked by recollections of violence and property damage? The language with which we talk and write about the events in the St. Louis suburb today could have profound effects on the viability of the community in the years to come.

Ben Railton, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Race Riots,”

Abigail Perkiss is an assistant professor of history at Kean University in Union, New Jersey and a fellow at the Kean Center for History, Politics, and Policy. Her first book, Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Post-War Philadelphia, examines this experience of interracial living in American cities.

Considering History: Remembering the History of Slavery Is Both Necessary and Patriotic

Do we really need to revisit the more painful moments of our nation's past? Ben Railton discusses why better remembering our most horrific histories is so important.

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This series by American studies professor Ben Railton explores the connections between America’s past and present.

Since its August 2019 launch, the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, an initiative that examines the consequences of slavery in the United States, has received many different responses, including pushback and critique, from a wide variety of sources. But over the last few weeks, a new challenge has emerged: the Woodson Center’s 1776 Project, a collaboration between a number of African-American journalists, entrepreneurs, and academics (although it features no historians). As Woodson Center founder and 1776 Project creator Bob Woodson puts it, in a direct rebuke to the 1619 Project’s emphasis on slavery’s enduring legacy, the 1776 Project is intended to “challenge those who assert America is forever defined by past failures.” “We seek,” the project’s mission statement adds, “to offer alternative perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering her promise of equality and opportunity.”

In other words, the 1776 Project seeks to create an explicit dichotomy between remembering the histories of slavery and moving forward, arguing that focusing on those histories (the 1619 Project’s central goal) makes continuing our shared progress more difficult. The 1776 Project also strives to distinguish between criticisms of America’s past and celebrations of its promise. In this Martin Luther King Day column, I made the case for critical patriotism, which is critiquing America’s failures (past as well as present) in order to move the nation closer to its ideals. Here, I want to make a parallel case for challenging why better remembering our most horrific histories is both necessary and patriotic.

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Offering a particularly striking illustration of the defining interconnections between slavery and America’s origins is Founding Father George Washington. It’s not just that Washington was a slave-owner, and thus subject to the same critiques I leveled against his peer Thomas Jefferson. Instead, it’s that in perhaps his most significant role as the nation’s first president, Washington was even more thoroughly defined by his choices within that horrific and destructive system.

Washington and his family (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Washington was inaugurated and began serving his first presidential term in New York City, the new nation’s capital, in 1789. But the July 1790 Residence Act shifted the capital to Philadelphia for the next ten years, during which time a permanent capital would be constructed in Washington, D.C. When it came to slavery, Pennsylvania was distinct from the rest of the nation, having passed the 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, a law which, along with a 1788 Amendment, made it illegal for a non-resident slave-owner to hold slaves for longer than six months (after six months’ residency, any such enslaved people would become free). Washington argued that since he was only in the state due to his presidential role, he should not be subject to that law but fearing that his slaves would nonetheless be freed, he devised a plan to rotate all slaves back to Virginia just before they reached that six-month threshold, keeping them all enslaved.

At least one of those enslaved African Americans directly resisted that practice, using instead the household’s Philadelphia location to escape from slavery and the Washingtons. That woman, Ona Judge, is the subject of Erica Dunbar’s magisterial book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (2017). As Judge put it in an 1845 interview with the abolitionist New Hampshire newspaper The Granite Freeman, “Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty.” After Judge escaped, President Washington devoted considerable time and resources to seeking her re-capture and re-enslavement, even refusing an offer (made by Judge through intermediaries) that she would return if she were promised freedom upon the Washingtons’ death. Although she was indeed never caught, she would remain a fugitive throughout her life.

Fugitive notice for Ona Judge in The Pennsylvania Gazette (Wikimedia Commons) Neither Judge nor slavery were the only elements of Washington’s presidency, but they were defining features of it. Washington’s attempts to navigate these legal questions of slavery and abolition reflect how thoroughly intertwined slavery and America were. At the same time, Ona Judge’s quest for liberty embodies America’s revolutionary and founding ideals, its equally constitutive arguments that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” I can imagine no founding era figure who exemplifies a lifelong pursuit of those ideals more than Judge, and thus no more patriotic act than remembering this fugitive slave — which likewise requires remembering the man, family, and system from which she was fleeing.

Another American who was fleeing that same system in search of those same ideals happens to be one of the most prominent individuals associated with the origins of the American Revolution and the new nation: Crispus Attucks. Attucks gained fame when he was shot and killed at the March 5, 1770, events that came to be known as the Boston Massacre. Attucks is often described as “the first casualty of the American Revolution.” As we approach the 250th anniversary of the Massacre, it’s worth noting that Attucks’s status as a fugitive slave has been much less consistently highlighted in that famous narrative of this iconic Revolutionary figure.

While some details of Attucks’s life remain hazy, others are clear and historically significant. His father was apparently an enslaved African (Prince Yonger) and his mother (Nancy Attucks) a Native American of the Natick tribe Nancy may or may not have been enslaved as well, but in any case such a mixed-race child was defined by the colony’s laws in the era of Attucks’s 1720s birth as a “black,” and thus he was enslaved from birth on a Framingham farm. In 1750 the roughly 27-year-old Attucks ran away from slavery, which we know because his master, William Brown, placed an advertisement describing Attucks and seeking his return. Although Brown warned that “all Matters of Vessels and others, are hereby cautioned against concealing or carrying off said Servant on Penalty of Law,” Attucks not only remained a fugitive for the next 20 years but became a sailor as well as a ropemaker at Boston’s seaport.

Depiction of the Boston Massacre (National Archives)

That role and setting are certainly part of what led Attucks to King’s Street in March 1770, as many of the protesters were sailors. But how much would our narratives of Attucks as a defining member of that pre-Revolutionary protest, as “the first casualty of the American Revolution,” shift if we likewise foregrounded his status as a fugitive slave — as a man who had been born into that world, had escaped it in his quest for liberty, and faced every day after the possibility of being recaptured into that tyrannical system? And how much would our narratives of the Boston Massacre and the Revolution shift as well? At the October 1770 trial of the British soldiers charged with murder, their defense lawyer, future founder and president John Adams, critiqued Attucks’s “mad behavior,” arguing that his “very looks was [sic] enough to terrify any person.” But indeed, Attucks’s actions and identity were neither mad nor terrifying, but representative of both the worst and the best of America, at our founding moment and ever since.

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18 Abandoned Psychiatric Hospitals, and Why They Were Left Behind

Prior to the 19th century there was little distinction between lunatic asylums, as the primitive mental-health facilities were known, poorhouses, and jails. Those unable to fit into society were shut away in these squalid facilities, sometimes for their entire lives.

The Kirkbride Plan was introduced in the mid-19th century to get rid of all that. A more humane approach to mental health, the plan focused on care and treatment in psychiatric institutions rather than mere containment. Open buildings and rehabilitative programs involving art, farming, and therapy improved the lives of the individuals with mental illness who lived at one of the rash of new hospitals that opened in the late 1800s.

While this was undoubtedly an improvement on the conditions of previous mental-health care, Kirkbride-style facilities were overpopulated, understaffed, and again became a dumping ground for people with developmental disabilities. Reports of maltreatment became increasingly common, especially when the 1950s and 󈨀s brought about sedative pharmaceutical treatments. The institutions were defunded, and community-based treatment facilities eclipsed the imposing, prison-like Victorian hospitals.

Hundreds of psychiatric institutions opened between the mid-1800s and the 1910s, most of which were abandoned during deinstitutionalization. Few of these ruins are still around many have been converted into condos, schools, or museums, with others slated for demolition in the near future. But the ruins of some abandoned asylums still stand. Here are 18 places where you can explore the ghosts of psychiatric history.

What Makes Democracy Work?: Individuals and a Nation's Laws

Facing History and Ourselves is exploring “What Makes Democracy Work?” in conversation with people whose insights from history, politics, literature, and civic life help us consider what it takes to sustain democracy in our societies today. In the first installment of our series, we spoke with Ben Railton, Professor of English Studies and American Studies at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts who tells us about two enslaved people who successfully sued for their freedom in the early years of the American republic .

In this 7-minute podcast , Railton shares the surprising stories of Elizabeth Freeman (also known as Mumbett) and Quock Walker to illustrate his idea that democracy works best when individuals lay claim to a nation's laws and ideals to assert their own rights and freedoms. Listen and join us on social media with #DemocracyAndUs to share your response: How do these stories resonate in our world today?

Want to use stories like these in the classroom? Explore our new lesson plan, "Taking Ownership of the Law," which asks, "How can individuals use the law to claim their rights within a democracy?"

Photo Caption and Credit: Mum Bett, aka Elizabeth Freeman, aged 70. Painted by Susan Ridley Sedgwick, aged 23. Watercolor on ivory, painted circa 1812. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society, BostonPublic Domain,

Written by Laura Tavares

Laura Tavares is Program Director for Organizational Learning and Thought Leadership at Facing History and Ourselves. She leads strategic partnerships, designs learning experiences for educators, and creates innovative classroom resources. She writes about history, current events and education for publications including the New York Times, Educational Leadership and Social Education. Laura joined the staff of Facing History in 2005 after several years teaching history and literature in independent schools. She is also a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Project Zero. Laura graduated from Wellesley College and received graduate degrees in literature and history from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

RAILTON, Richard (by 1522-75), of Canterbury, Kent.

Richard Railton was styled yeoman when he was admitted to the freedom of Canterbury by redemption in 1543, but he seems to have had legal training: in 1552 he was referred to as attorney with one Christopher Scott against the city in a land dispute, and in 1569 he was granted a fee of 40s. a year for his ‘pains, travail and counsel’ for the city. His first service to it appears to have been in 1550-1 when he was repaid 3s.4d. by the chamberlain ‘that he laid out when the trial of our custumal was at Westminster’.4

Railton was a common councilman and perhaps already an alderman when he sat in his only Parliament. He did not see it out, for both he and his fellow-Member Nicholas Fish were found absent when the House was called early in 1555 and were consequently informed against in the King’s bench in the following Easter term. As no further process was taken against either of them it is likely that their absence was not regarded as a gesture of opposition. On 15 Jan., the day before the dissolution, Railton was present at a Canterbury burmote which resolved that no future Member for the city should be paid out of its chamber and that any mayor, alderman or councillor attempting to transgress this rule should be fined £10. This resolution confirmed, with the addition of the penal clause, one passed in the previous year, and although neither of them excluded payment by special levy Railton’s decision in 1570 to release the city from what it owed him for his service in Parliament shows that he had not been paid.5

Railton’s civic career under Elizabeth was not unaffected by controversy. His term as mayor followed the disputed mayoral election of 1561 when the two candidates named, as was customary, by the outgoing mayor and his brethren were rejected by the commonalty because they were ‘perversely given to further the order of religion established’ as Railton was one of the two ‘discreet men’ chosen to replace those rejected he may be presumed to have been inoffensive in religion. Eight years later he was himself in trouble for neglect of his aldermanic duties. Warned in December 1569 that this might cost him banishment or a fine, in the following July he was deprived of the aldermanship after being referred with his consent to two of the city’s counsel, Robert Alcock † and William Lovelace † , this decision was confirmed by the burmote with the proviso that he should never again be an alderman, although the threat of banishment was lifted and the fine suspended. When in October he remitted the fee of 40s. granted him ten months earlier the burmote declared itself well pleased.6

For all this, Railton styled himself one of the aldermen of Canterbury when he made his will on 6 July 1575. He left his house in the parish of St. Andrew to his wife, with remainder to his sons Robert and Richard and his two daughters. To Robert he left £5 and to Richard £3 on completion of his apprenticeship, and when Robert inherited the house he was to give Richard £30 as a stock. The daughters, both married, were given two silver spoons each, and the wife had the residue of goods and was named executrix. The will was proved on 22 Oct. 1575.7

Is Topical Ketamine Ready For Prime Time?

Topical analgesics are appealing to clinicians because their lack of systemic absorption results in limited adverse effects (AEs). 1 Other benefits of topical analgesics include direct access to target sites, convenience, ease of use, painless administration, and improved patient acceptance and adherence, all of which may reduce overall treatment costs. 2-4 Most topical analgesics are indicated for nociceptive pain, with few indicated for neuropathic pain.

Ketamine is a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist used for general anesthesia that has been formulated and studied as a topical agent, mainly for the management of neuropathic pain. Over the past several years, there has been a rise in the number of prescriptions written for topical ketamine, coincident with the increased popularity of compounding pharmacies. 5

Ketamine: A History of Pain Control

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that is used to induce anesthesia and can be administered via multiple routes, including oral, intravenous, intramuscular, nasal, epidural, and topical (see Table 1). 6 Ketamine was first discovered in 1962 and was used as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War. One of the first reports of ketamine use for pain management was in children in the emergency department in 1989. 7 In the 1990s, it was discovered that peripheral nerve endings in skin contain glutamate receptors that are involved in nociception. 8 Given that ketamine is one of the best available NMDA antagonist on the market, it started to be used in the late 1990s topically for analgesia.

Mechanism of Action

There are multiple mechanisms through which ketamine provides analgesia (See Figure 1). Ketamine is a glutamate NMDA antagonist. NMDA receptors are involved in neurotransmission for nociception and are found in peripheral tissues. 9-11 NMDA receptors are found on unmyelinated and myelinated axons in the peripheral somatic tissues, giving topical ketamine a target for providing analgesia. 12,13 Other mechanisms of action of ketamine are its effects on opioid receptors, 14 muscarinic receptors, 15,16 ion channels (Na, K), 17 monoamine transporters (including dopamine and serotonin), 18-23 and neuronal nitric oxide synthase. 24 In addition, it behaves as an anti-inflammatory by acting on Toll-like receptor (TLRs), which leads to down regulation of proinflammatory gene expression. 25 The TLRs are a recently discovered family of pattern recognition receptors, which show “homology with the human interleukin-1 receptor family. Engagement of different TLRs can induce overlapping yet distinct patterns of gene expression that contribute to an inflammatory response.” 26


Topical ketamine is administered by compounding with a base (vehicle). The 2 bases that are commonly used are Lipoderm and pluronic lecithin organogel (PLO), transdermal bases used by compounding pharmacies to administer medications through the skin. Lipoderm is a smooth textured hypoallergenic gel, whereas PLO is a hypoallergenic emollient cream. Lipoderm manufacturer PCCA conducted a study comparing ketoprofen delivery with Lipoderm versus PLO and found that Lipoderm delivers medication more rapidly and with better absorption. 27 As a result, there may be varying results with the type of compounding base that is used with topical ketamine. Other bases that have been used in studies include white petrolatum, cetearyl alcohol, soybean lecithin granules, and isopropyl palmitate.

Topical ketamine strengths range from 0.5% to 10% in published studies, with the majority of studies using from 0.5% to 2.0%. There are very few studies at higher doses. Compounding pharmacies have dispensed ketamine in doses ranging up to 20%. The optimal dose and frequency of application are unknown. The safety of topical ketamine >10% is unknown.

Literature Review of Topical Ketamine

Postherpetic Neuralgia

The studies for postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) have been mixed to positive in terms of efficacy. There have been 3 randomized controlled trials with placebos. 28-30

In the first study, 92 patients with diabetic neuropathy, PHN, or postsurgical/post-traumatic neuropathic pain with allodynia, hyperalgesia, or pinprick hypesthesia were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 4 creams (placebo, 2% amitriptyline, 1% ketamine, or 2% amitriptyline-1% ketamine combined). A reduction in pain scores of 1.1-1.5 units was observed in all groups, and there was no difference between groups. Blood concentrations revealed no significant systemic absorption and minimal side effects. 28

In the second study, topical ketamine when combined with amitriptyline was shown to be efficacious (ie, reduction in numerical pain scale) when compared with a placebo. 29

In the third randomized controlled study, there was a significant effect on pain intensity (less time with intense pain), but topical ketamine did not result in any statistical difference in pain scores among the 12 participants. 30

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy remains a difficult painful condition to manage. The studies of topical ketamine for diabetic neuropathy have been mixed to poor in terms of efficacy. Mahoney et al conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled study of topical ketamine cream (5%) to see if it was effective in reducing the pain of diabetic neuropathy. 31 The study, which included 17 patients with diabetes, found that topical ketamine cream was no more effective than placebo in relieving pain caused by diabetic neuropathy. A second randomized controlled trial also found no statistical difference between topical ketamine and placebo. 32 In addition, in an open-label study, ketamine did not result in reduction in pain. 28

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial evaluated 10% topical ketamine in 18 patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) type I, and 2 patients with CRPS type II. 33 The outcome measures were sensory tests to light touch, pressure, punctate stimulation, light brushing, and thermal stimuli before and 30 minutes after topical ketamine was applied on the symptomatic and asymptomatic limbs. Ketamine applied to the symptomatic limb decreased allodynia to light brushing and hyperalgesia to punctate stimulation. It did not lead to pain reduction.

Two small open label trials showed reductions in numerical pain scores in pain patients. 34,35 In one study, topical ketamine ointment 0.25% to 1.5% was applied to 7 participants, 5 with CRPS type I and 2 with CRPS type II. Four participants with early dystrophic CRPS type I had reduced pain on the visual analog scale. There were no changes in the 3 participants with chronic atrophic CRPS type I and the 2 with CRPS type II. 34 In the other open label study, topical ketamine was applied to 5 participants with sympathetically maintained pain all experienced a decrease in the numerical rating scale (ranging from 65% to 100%). 35

Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

Two randomized controlled trials evaluated topical ketamine for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) pain. 36,37 In both of these trials, ketamine was combined with other topical analgesics. In one 4-week trial in 208 patients, topical ketamine 1.5% was combined with topical baclofen and amitriptyline and their pain reduction and functional gains were evaluated. 36 The study found a statistical difference in sensory and motor subscales based on a questionnaire, as well as improvement in tingling and burning sensation however, there was no difference between the ketamine and placebo groups on the brief pain inventory.36 In the other trial, ketamine 2% combined with amitriptyline did not result in any statistical difference in reducing pain compared with placebo. 37

Topical ketamine below 2% is likely not effective in treatment of CIPN. Further studies are needed to analyze higher concentrations of ketamine. In 2014, the American Society of Clinical Oncology developed CIPN guidelines with a moderate recommendation for duloxetine and a recommendation to consider a topical compounded cream, which include ketamine, amitriptyline, and baclofen. 38

Pelvic Pain

One retrospective study evaluated 13 patients with pelvic pain who were given topical ketamine 0.5% combined with amitriptyline 1% to 2% of these 13 patients, 1 (8%) had complete relief, 6 (46%) had substantial relief, 4 (31%) had some relief, and 2 (15%) had no response. 39 One patient reported occasional irritation while using topical amitriptyline-ketamine with lidocaine no other patients reported local or systemic AEs. The investigators reported that 85% of patients experienced at least some pain relief.

Ketamine’s Safety

Given the data published, topical ketamine appears to have an excellent safety profile, and patients tolerate it well. Based on the studies, the most common AEs were mainly dermatologic—skin irritation, pruritic plaque, and allergic reaction. It is unclear if the AEs were due to the ketamine or the base.

A study conducted by Finch et al found that topical ketamine 10% did not result in any systemic absorption and appeared safe. 33 There are no published data on the safety of topical ketamine above 10%. There is only one documented case report of topical ketamine causing systemic effects in this case the mother of an 18-month-old patient applied ketamine to the baby’s diaper rash, despite it being prescribed for her husband’s neck pain. The compounded ointment consisted of ketamine 10%, clonidine 2%, gabapentin 6%, mefanamic acid 1%, imipramine 3%, and lidocaine 1%.40 The patient had a norketamine level of 41 ng/mL (reporting limit, >20 ng/mL) and a clonidine level of 9.2 ng/mL (reference range, 0.5-4.5 ng/mL). The patient had respiratory failure and altered mental status that resolved in the intensive care unit. In children, compounded pain medication should be avoided or given in smaller doses due to decreased skin to body surface area and the integrity of the epidermis in children. It should be used with caution in patients at increased risk for systemic uptake.

A recently completed pilot trial assessed the safety and blood level of topical ketamine 10% in patients with neuropathic pain. 41 In this trial, 9 participants applied 10% ketamine gel compounded with PLO to a 100 cm 2 area 3 times daily. There were low serum levels of ketamine at days 0, 3, and 7, with all levels below 10 ng/mL. The only reported AEs were itching, mild burning, and nausea. Overall, topical ketamine is tolerated in adults with local AEs, but further safety studies still need to be performed. It should be used with extreme caution in toddlers and children.


The efficacy of topical ketamine is still inconclusive because studies have been mixed to negative. Topical ketamine’s effectiveness may rely on the dose, pain condition, choice of vehicle, and frequency of application, which may explain the mixed results. Topical ketamine should not be a first-line agent. The majority of the data is from case reports, cases series, pilot trials, and retrospective studies. There are very limited data from randomized control trials of ketamine’s efficacy. Topical ketamine is tolerated well in adults without any systemic AEs. Given the rise in use of compounded ketamine-containing pain medications, it is imperative that physicians become familiar with ketamine’s mechanisms, appropriate uses, and AEs. Further placebo-
controlled studies with larger sample sizes need to be performed to determine ketamine’s safety profile and the appropriate vehicle, dosage, and frequency of application.


  1. Chagai

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