On Saturday, May 21, Tryon Palace will be presenting “Pathways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” in the Cullman Performance Hall at the North Carolina History Center. 

The symposium agenda includes scholars and special programming to explore this complex network of secret routes, safe houses, and courageous and caring people.  

The Underground Railroad refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to escape bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape: Many were carefully planned, some were opportunistic. Planned efforts were often complex secret plans with assistance from others, often called conductors. Harriet Tubman is known as the most famous “conductor.”

The methods and routes varied and included escape by both land and sea. These acts of self-emancipation labeled slaves as “fugitives,” “escapees,” or “runaways,” but “freedom seekers” is a more accurate description.  During each subsequent decade while slavery was legal in the United States, efforts to escape increased and became more refined. 

Tryon Palace will present a day of learning as speakers and panelists delve into what is known and unknown about the Underground Railroad, both nationally and more specifically in eastern North Carolina. The agenda includes a film presentation, academic speakers, a performance of “Songs of Freedom” about the Underground Railroad by the Craven Community College Choir and three panel sessions: The First Underground Railroad in North America; The Second and Last Underground Railroads, 1800 – 1865; and Legacies of America’s Underground Railroads.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Timothy D. Walker, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he serves on the executive board of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture.  

The Tryon Palace African American Advisory Committee has assisted with the presentation of this symposium.

“The executive director, staff and planners at Tryon Palace are to be commended for offering the public this full view of this country’s popularly named Underground Railroad,” said Dr. David C. Dennard, chairman, Tryon Palace African American Advisory Committee.

“Pathways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” begins at 8 a.m., and ends at 5 p.m. Registration for the event is $5, plus tax and includes lunch. Space is limited, so register to secure your spot.

For more information, contact Sharon Bryant, African American Outreach Coordinator, at (252) 639-3592, or sharon.bryant@ncdcr.gov. To register, call (252) 639-3524, or purchase your ticket at the North Carolina History Center ticket desk located at 529 S. Front Street, New Bern, 28562.

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