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Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site

Built on the site of the Black settlement that Rev. Josiah Henson helped found in 1841, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site preserves the settlement where Henson and his wife Nancy lived. The site is situated within 200 acres and was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular 1852 antislavery novel which featured an enslaved African man named Tom (based on Josiah Henson) as its protagonist. The area of land was purchased in 1841 to establish the Dawn Settlement - a refuge for the many fugitives from slavery who escaped to Canada from the USA. Today thousands of visitors travel to the site every year to learn and understand more about this history. The site includes a number of buildings which originally composed the British-American Institute, an all-ages teacher training and general education manual school. Present day visitors will find examples of a sawmill, smokehouse, and pioneer church, as well as the Henson family cemetery. The house where Josiah Henson and his wife Nancy lived has also been restored to 1850s period fashion. Also located on the site is the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre which houses a collection of 19th century artefacts relating to the abolitionist era and to Henson himself. Highlights include a rare early edition of Henson’s autobiography and a signed portrait of Queen Victoria presented to him in 1877. Upon arrival at the Interpretive Centre, visitors are guided into the North Star Theatre where they are shown a film titled Father Henson: His Spirit Lives On. A further gallery named Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery displays a narrative of the history of African freedom seekers from initial capture in Africa and enslavement in the United States to freedom in Canada. The site also runs a variety of educational programmes aimed at children and young adults, alongside a popular programme of guided tours.

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Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum opened in 1997 on the Burkle Estate- an historic house in Memphis. Originally built by a German immigrant, Joseph Burkle, the building is thought to have been part of the Underground Railroad, offering safe harbour to the enslaved on their escape route through the USA to Canada. Made up of period, nineteenth-century room settings, the museum documents the history of the Underground Railroad and the possible role of the house in that network. It also features displays about the system of transatlantic slavery, slave auctions and the everyday life of slaves in the wider Memphis area using collections of artefacts and archival material, including many advertisements from slave auctions.

The site's main feature is its secret cellar and trap doors that are thought to have offered refuge to runaway slaves. Visitors are invited to step down into the cramped cellar and kneel on the brick floor to get a deeper understanding of the plight of the enslaved. The museum also conducts guided tours around the site and the local area, highlighting the broader history of slavery in the USA.

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The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.

The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.

Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.

The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.

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Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park was established in 2003, the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death, in rural Dorchester County. In 2017 the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Centre was officially opened. The visitor centre was a collaborative project between the US National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service. The building houses exhibition space, a research library and gift shop. Also on location is a public pavilion and legacy garden.

The design of the site was built around the importance of northward movement in the slave's quest for freedom. The legacy garden stretches out north between the buildings, offering an expansive and hopeful view. The view south is more enclosed and fragmented, reflecting the intolerable existence for those enslaved. The visitor centre houses an exhibition that chronicles the life and accomplishments of Tubman; her birth into slavery, escaping and subsequently returning to free friends and family, her work as a Union spy and her activism after the Civil War. The story is told through a combination of interpretive text, videos, murals, dioramas and her own powerful words.

The park and visitor centre are open seven days a week and are free to the public. The visitor centre also provides further information on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Driving Tour, which has 36 stops throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland linked to Tubman's life.

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Rokeby Museum

The Rokeby Museum presents a 'nationally significant Underground Railroad story tucked inside a quintessential Vermont experience.' The museum was established in 1961, and covers 100 acres, with ten historic buildings. Originally a prosperous merino wool farm, Rokeby was owned by the Robinson family during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The family were abolitionists, and provided a safe haven for fugitive slaves from the American South.

The Underground Railroad Education Centre which marks the entrance to the museum houses the sites permanent museum exhibitions. 'Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont' tells the stories of Jesse and Simon; two fugitive slaves who found shelter at Rokeby during the 1830s. Using a range of historic documents and artefacts the exhibition traces their journey from slavery to freedom. It also introduces the Robinson family and their support of the American abolition movement. The use of audio and film, recreating some of the voices of the exhibition's main characters, brings the history to life for visitors.

The rest of the museum is made up of historic buildings, including the main farmhouse, that have been restored and refurnished in order to provide visitors with a glimpse as to what life would have been like on the farm when Jesse and Simon were there. It is thought that both would have spent a significant length of time working on the farm before moving on towards Canada.