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Footsteps to Freedom Returns for a Seventh Year

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Kenley Konnection of Columbus, Ohio has been selected for a seventh year to coordinate a teacher field study of the Underground Railroad. The agency owned by Gloria Kenley is a national leader in the field. She is the only travel agent coordinating an event of this kind in the nation.

The program originated in the Inland Empire, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. In 1994, Black Voice News received an invitation from Greene County, Ohio to retrace the steps many Africans took when escaping the harsh realities of enslavement from 1820 to 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation completely abolished slavery in the United States.

Co-Publisher, Cheryl Brown accepted and became so committed to disseminating the information that she wrote extensively about the stories of various sites.

In 1997, when she was approached by Dr. Peg Hill of the San Bernardino County Schools to teach inservice teachers it was evident they wanted more information. The idea took root and the first thirty teachers were recruited.

Kenley Konnection was highly recommended as a very efficient, knowledgeable business. Although owner Gloria Kenley had been sending students on the Detroit and Windsor UGRR, she now had an opportunity to expand her base and her knowledge of the subject.

This year’s seventh anniversary trip will help teachers bring back even more first-hand information about the Underground Railroad. Our country was built on the history of slavery. The Civil War was about slavery and whether wealthy slave owners should be allowed to continue to have human chattel.

Legislation was signed by President Clinton that authorized the National Park Service to preserve the historic sites. Many are visited by the group.

Preservation is important so that what happened in various states will not happen to other quickly disappearing sites. For example, in Columbus, Ohio the McDonnald House, the home of a prominent abolitionist, was knocked down to make room for a parking lot after the last family member died. The house housed freedom seekers who hid in the root cellar. A marker is the only thing left to identify the site.

“This opportunity to participate in the making of the American story transforms the perspectives of the participants,” said Dr. Hill

This year the team will be joined by UCR doctoral student Elmer Thomas who will work on the technology portion of the field study. Teachers will be taught how to use the latest technology to interface with students while on the trip via the internet. Dr. Laura Young, Associate Professor, College of Education, Cal State San Bernardino University works with the teachers on educational outcomes for students. For several years the College of Extended Education has offered professional development salary advancement. “A major significance of the UGRR is that it is the story of actions of ordinary people in building the freedoms we take for granted today,” said Young.

Also returning team members will be Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, UCR lecturer in English and Ethnic Studies and former assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Daniel Walker, historian, author, and independent scholar will also rejoin the group to provide historical contextualization for the tour.

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