Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer 2015: Abolitionism and The Underground Railroad

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.” ― John O'DonohueAnam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
There is no way that I could read many books about The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, Abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, have intense classroom discussions, and actually experience the rich history that surrounds that time period and just let it go...No, I can not just let it go.

I have been back home from my summer studies for about a week, and My People, ideas and thoughts are running around in my head, and I will try and put some of the ideas down here, in this blog, so that I can make some sense out of them; I got to get this information out!

So, one of the many things that I have been thinking about are the people who were instrumental to abolitionism and The Underground Railroad......

We traveled to Albany, NY and upon arrival to Albany, our first stop was at the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers. Stephen was freed from slavery as a youth and spent thirty years of his life helping others to escape slavery through The Underground Railroad. (People need other people, and we must always reach back to help others.)


“WE DEVOTE ALL OUT TIME TO THE CARE OF THE OPPRESSED WHO COME AMONG US. OUR PAY IS SMALL, BUT YET WE ARE WILLING TO CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WE CAN FOR THEM. WE HAVE ARRIVALS EVERY FEW DAYS FROM SOUTHERN OPPRESSION, AND FORWARD THEM TO THE NEXT DEPOT …”STEPHEN MYERS, 1860
We were welcomed to the Myers house by Paul and Mary Liz Stewart who are passionate about restoring the Myers house and keeping the history of Albany’s Underground Railroad involvement alive. We spent two days exploring Albany with the Stewarts, and I was amazed at their knowledge and commitment to preserving the Underground Railroad.

Paul and Mary Liz Stewart

On the second day of being in Albany, we went back to the Myers house, and it was alive with children working in and around the Myers house. They were doing archaeologist digs, completing the plans to implement a garden and on and on and on. It was so great to see this house alive with children whom I hope will continue to keep Abolitionism and The Underground Railroad alive long after the Stewart’s are gone. (Train up a child in the way that he should go......)

Now Albany made my heart glad, and I felt so much pride in knowing that freed people, The Myers, would risk their lives to help others. (People need other people!)

However, the journey continued, and we traveled to Auburn, NY to the Harriet Tubman home and gravesite. Now, I had no idea that Harriet Tubman owned a home, a senior living facility, a hospital, and a vibrant farm, and we we were on those actual grounds. It felt great to walk where Harriet walked knowing that she mostly did all of what she did for other people. (People need other people!)

Never thought about the love life of Harriet Tubman, because she is sometimes portrayed as non-human. However, she was married twice, and had one adopted daughter.... Harriet was strong and courageous and needed love and support too!


Picture at The Harriet Tubman Museum 
The Harriet Tubman House
Harriet’s original barn restored!
Harriet’s gravesite!

By the way, President Obama has paved the way for the Harriet Tubman home to become a National Historic Site..... Put this place on your list of places to visit.

William Seward!

Now, William Seward was appointed by Abraham Lincoln to be Secretary of State in 1861, and he was a big time abolitionist. When you get a chance, read about William Seward.

We visited his expansive house, and even visited a room in his house that was part of The Underground Railroad. What was surprising to me is that a man of his statue was an abolitionist. Yep, he wanted my people to be free, and we even read letters that were written by his wife pushing him to be even more radical about the ending of slavery.

William Seward
William Seward’s House

Now, we were told that Seward tried to give Harriet Tubman the land where her house is currently sitting, but she refused to let him give it to her, she slowly but surely bought it from him. (I LOVE HARRIET TUBMAN!)

Now, we visited the home, which was not very far from Colgate University, of another rich man who was all about abolitionism: Gerritt Smith. Garritt Smith’s house was a stop on The Underground Railroad, and he helped to finance The Underground Railroad. When the likes of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown showed up at this door, he knew that they may need money, and he had no problem supplying it. (People need other people.)



Where Garrett Smith conducted most of his Underground Railroad activity

The visit to Seneca Falls, New York, the home of the Women’s Right Movement,  was quite liberating, yet complex for me as an African American women. Not sure if I would have been fighting for women’s right if my race did not have equal rights. Even if women got the right to vote, I still would not have been able to vote, because I am African American. However, many of the women in this movement were abolitionist including Elizabeth Stanton.

Elizabeth Stanton

We visited the National Women’s Rights National Historical Park; The Wesleyan Chapel where the first ever women’s right convention was held and also a place where Frederick Douglass visited, and we visited Elizabeth Stanton’s home.

At the National Women’s Rights National Park
With Judy Wellman and the great, great, granddaughter
of Elizabeth Stanton

Long live strong women who are willing to make history.......

Now, there is no way that a person can study abolitionism in the Northeast and not talk about Frederick Douglass....

We went to the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester to visit the Frederick Douglass collection, and My People, the primary sources in this library were completely captivating. We even saw a lock of Frederick Douglass’ hair.... A lock of hair, bizarre right, but ain’t nothing like some primary documents from the 1800’s.

We drove by a home that was owned by Frederick Douglass, and there are people living in that home. Can you imagine someone knocking on your door and telling you that Frederick Douglass use to live there? Well, that’s sort of what happened to the people who live there now.

We also visited the gravesite site of Frederick Douglass and a statue of Frederick Douglass which is the first statue erected to honor an African American in the US. It was an adventure to find the site, but we were relentless and found it.




Now, there are so many others whom we learned about during the three week stay in Hamilton, NY such as William Still, David Ruggles, and Harriet Jacobs who were immensely courageous, and I am carrying their spirits with me.

There is no way that a person can be immersed in this type of history and go back to life as usually. There is no way... The journey continues for me to learn more and more about this topic and connect it to the intense racial climate in which we are living today.

So, bear with me while I read more serious books, because right now I just can’t squelch the fire that this National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar has ignited.

I am grateful for our leader, Dr. Graham Hodges, who orchestrated the writing of the grant that provided this rich opportunity!

Dr. Graham Hodges

Educators, no everybody, we must take advantage of the opportunities that are provided for us; We owe it to ourselves to cultivate our learning so that we can educate others!

Liberate the mind...










1 comment:

Trina Williams said...

This experience was by far the most liberating one I've had in life! Looking at these photos and reading the posts takes me back to this remarkable tine when my heart/soul came to life like never before.

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