Updated for 2019
It’s been called one of the first interracial coalitions – a secret network predominantly run by free African Americans in the north, but also assisted by Quakers and whites, men and women, old and young. Their purpose: to help run-away slaves from the south find freedom in northern states and Canada. It was called the Underground Railroad and it routed tens of thousands from slavery to a new, free life. It was dangerous to both the slaves and the people who were involved in helping them flee, and it took a lot of courage and cooperation.
To bring focus to the history of this period and the brave men and women who wanted to be free, and to honor Black History month, Burritt on the Mountain is hosting an educational event called Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom. Participants will learn about slavery, hear stories about the people of the Underground Railroad, and hear music related to the railroad from the early-to-mid 1800s. There will also be a craft that helps kids learn about disguises used by slaves to escape their owners.
The Railroad Comes Alive!
Escaping those owners was dangerous for slaves. Finding and traveling the railroad was not only the way to freedom, but also very dangerous and scary as the run-away slaves became fugitives in the eyes of the law. Since they were considered property of their owners, rewards were posted for their capture, making their travels even more treacherous.
Visitors to the park will be able to walk a sample route of the Railroad as to understand the kinds of challenges there were along the way. The route takes visitors from house to house in the historic park as if they are a slave escaping to northern states. Stories of the courageous people who worked or traveled the railroad’s indeterminable and unmarked routes and safe houses will also be told in the park. These stories will include tales of the famous (or infamous depending on who asked back then) Harriet Tubman as well as stories from not-so-famous yet equally heroic individuals of that time.
An Experience for the Whole Family
The event promises to be culturally and historically informative. Tammy Cooney, education director for Burritt on the Mountain, says this is an experiential learning activity for the whole family, and participants will walk away with an appreciation for and deeper knowledge of these extraordinary people and their stories.
“This is a wonderful way to explore the difficult subject of slavery, a topic that should not and cannot be erased from American history. This activity remembers and celebrates the courage and fortitude of escaping African American slaves and the dedicated people who helped them on their journey to freedom.”
Music was also an important element to the Underground Railroad. Visitors will hear “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” discuss its meaning and history, and then listen to other songs such as “Wade in the Water,” “Steal Away,” “Free at Last, and “Ain’t I a Woman.”
Make the Most of Your Visit
Please allow 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete all of the activities (or pick and choose activities). The tour is included with regular admission, is free for members, and participation is limited to the first 60 people who meet at the Old Country Church at either the 11:00am or 1:00pm time slot.
EDUCATOR NOTE: Burritt on the Mountain also offers this experience as field trip throughout the year for groups of 12 or more people. Anyone wishing to schedule this activity or any of their other educational experiences should contact Alice Kirsch at 256-512-0148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underground Railroad Event Details
Location: Burritt on the Mountain, 3101 Burritt Drive SE, Huntsville, AL 35801 (map)
Date: February 9, 2019, 10:00am – 3:00pm
Cost: $8 (children), $10 (adults) – Teachers are FREE!
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