|FREEDOM CENTER- a powerful name for a powerful place|
On the west cost The National Underground Railroad -Freedom Center was a place of legend. Yesterday our University of San Diego class entered the Cincinnati legend and the dream came to life as we were transported to an amazing space full of history, reality and hope. The five story museum located on the banks of the Ohio river encompasses a lineage of heroes from the past that impacted history by helping those enslaved or helping create freedom.
The Freedom Center describes the essence of the museum as a place that,
"...celebrate[s] freedom's heroes, those brave men and women who came together to create a secret network through which the enslaved could escape to freedom. From their example of courage, cooperation and perseverance, we relate this uniquely American history to contemporary issues, inspiring everyone to take steps for freedom today."
Our first stop on our journey through the freedom center stared with Courage, a seasonal exhibit that forces on ending segregation and moving to a world of integrated education. Courage was not just the name of the exhibit; It was the essence of a generation. The courage to put individuals lives on the line in the pursuit for equal education and freedom to learn. Our group was given a tour by a historical scholar named Carl Westmoreland. As educators and students, our class discussed how we all recalled the history of the impact of the Brown vs.Board case however we lacked a complete understand of the events that preceded the case. This exhibit showed the courage and will power of Rev. J.A. De Laine and other brave citizens of Clarendon County town along with five other lawsuits in various areas of America that fought for equality in education and civil rights.
|Our class with our guide, Carl Westmoreland|
Reading about an even has a completely different impact than walking through and seeing the faces of history. One of the biggest takeaway from this exhibit involved how was when our tour guide Carl showed us a photo of the Briggs vs Elliott Petition of November 1949. It was when Carl reminded us that each of these one hundred signatures belonged to no one famous. Each person was not trying to contribute to the petition for the recognition, and in reality the act of signing the petition could put their lives and families in danger. There was even a sign that was posted above a makeshift petitions that visitors could sign reading "The signers of the petition risked everything, their homes, their lives. their safety. Would you sign your name?" (picture seen to the right).
|Would you have the Courage to sign your own name?|
This reflected on the idea of what black people were fighting for. Since students of color were not given this opportunity they were driven to make change. Carl made a reference how change starts with a "drive, a want, but most importantly a need." Carl assisted our class to be thankful and appreciative of the opportunities we have and how education was probability available and insisted. If we as individuals did not go to school these days, people would just assume that we were too bright however in the past if a black individual did not go, it was due to his/her "laziness or inability to learn." This was assumed for the black community however their ability was not the true concern. Since a majority of black students came from rural backgrounds the could not afford the time or resources to appreciate a proper education. In a way it was many ways the black culture was looked down upon because their lack of education caused their unhappiness but it was the lack of access to education that was the true problem.
This theme was very relevant throughout our EDUC 597 course. The idea of judging and accusing caused people to avoid the injustice and believe that things were fine they way they were. In class we read William Ryan's book Blaming the Victim. In the book Willam Ryan states, "If one comes to believe that the culture of poverty produces persons fated to be poor, who can find any fault with our corporation-dominated economy?" (p.27). This goes back to the idea that if no one fights for he injustice or the reality or unfair opportunity then who will invoke change? The change is only driven by those that want to change. If each person of the De Laine family gave up, then all the previous history or fighting for change would have been lost. The fight is still not over especially in the school system.
As educators it is hard not to be placed in a box and it is hard to not come into a position without biases. The exhibit made us think how we want to be the unsung heros like those that signed the petition and fight to give equal education for each and every student in our classroom. Although I am not famous, although no one may read the words and the passions I share in this blog; at least I am not silent. The Freedom Center reminds us we need Courage, Cooperation, and Perseverance to make hope and change still exist.
According to Lindsey Gross, my EDUC 597 classmate, her experience about Courage was, "education provided a pathway for people to impact society and become active citizens for fighting for liberation." The idea of being active is important. Actions can speak louder than words.
Freedom Center. (2012). http://freedomcenter.org/freedom-forum/index.php/event/courage-vision-segregation-guts-fight/. In Courage: The Vision to End Segration, The Guts to fight for it. Retrieved May 17, 2012,
Ryan, W. (1976). Blaming the victim. New York: Vintage Books. (p. 27)
Carl Westmoreland (tour guide). (2012). Courage: The Vision to End Segration, The Guts to fight for it. Quotation given May 16, 2012 in guided tour.