“Questioning Conversations” Series Premieres

CHURCH CREEK, MD. – Last Friday, on the 25th anniversary weekend, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program premiered the first four episodes of a new video series entitled Questioning Conversations. The videos, created through a cooperative agreement with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, capture conversations by scholars of Underground Railroad history with diverse influencers, including musicians.

“The way we talk about the past has a powerful and creative effect on how we understand the present,” says Network to Freedom National Program Manager Diane Miller.

“Questioning Conversations explains how Underground Railroad history continues to inspire people worldwide and creates a space where people can explore the complex legacy of the Underground Railroad in ways they might not have done before.”

Administered by the National Park Service, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom serves to honor, preserve, and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight. The program recognizes nearly 700 locations that are confirmed Underground Railroad and self-liberation sites and helps to advance the idea that all human beings have the right to self-determination and freedom from oppression.

Each episode of Questioning Conversations features a scholar, who describes newly uncovered histories connected to the Underground Railroad. These discoveries are so fresh that they do not appear in textbooks. Scholars featured in the series, including Tiya Miles from Harvard University and Derrick Spires from Cornell University, continue to find and study documents and stories from archives throughout the country. These videos also bring to light the hard work of uncovering such buried, even hidden, facts from the past. Commentators respond by sharing their related experiences and expertise.

Questioning Conversations honors the wisdom that all people bring to historical inquiry. Discussions with well-known figures such as the musical duo The War and Treaty and the comedian Josh Johnson draw in broad new audiences so that they too may learn and engage with this important chapter of American history.

“We hope that the videos will encourage a young, diverse audience to learn more about the Underground Railroad,” said Anna-Lisa Cox, historian and video project manager.

“Questioning Conversations covers freedom sites from Nantucket to Maui. Few are aware that the people of Hawaii welcomed freedom seekers as early as the 1810s, or that African American freedom seekers published their writings to advance the cause of liberty long before Frederick Douglass was born.”

On July 21, the Network to Freedom Program celebrated its Silver Jubilee with an event from 1-4 p.m. at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Md. The day marks the 25th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act into law.

Additional episodes of the video series will be released every two months for a year. The videos will be available on the Network to Freedom’s website. They are free and open source for all to view and use.

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