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Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

The Long Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Revisited - A talk by historian Anthony Cohen

Date: 7:00pm EDT September 9, 2013

The Department of History and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience present a talk by historian, writer Anthony Cohen as he recalls his epic re-enactment of the Underground Railroad experience.

Join historian Anthony Cohen as he recounts his journey retracing the route of the Underground Railroad from Maryland to Canada in a public talk at Washington College on Monday, September 9, 2013 at 7:00 PM in Litrenta Lecture Hall in the John S. Toll Science Center. The talk will be followed by a public reception.

Cohen will describe his trek through five states by foot, boat, and rail, reliving the experiences of such nineteenth-century fugitives as Henry “Box” Brown, who mailed himself to freedom in 1849 inside a wooden crate smuggled onto a train. 

On May 4, 1996, historian and Menare founder Anthony Cohen embarked on a two-month-long journey to explore a tragically overlooked part of American history—the Underground Railroad—the secret network, which countless slaves traveled to attain their freedom. Cohen began his epic journey in Sandy Spring, MD, and traveled a distance of 1,200 miles to his final destination in Amherstburg, Ontario. Along the way, Cohen traced the steps of runaways on wilderness trails and waterways and in fugitive slave communities and Quaker sanctuaries. Following the success of his walk, Cohen embarked on an even more ambitious undertaking in 1998, following the footsteps of fugitives from Mobile, Alabama, to Windsor, Ontario.  

Cohen’s story has appeared in numerous radio and print sources and was also featured on “Oprah.”  In 1997, using what he had learned about the Underground Railroad, Cohen helped train television icon Oprah Winfrey for her role as Sethe in the film “Beloved.” Blindfolded and dropped on a Maryland plantation, Oprah was transported back to the time of slavery, where for two days and nights she lived as a fugitive along a simulated Underground Railroad. Cohen will recount these vivid events and will explain how Oprah used her journey through bondage as the inspiration for her change-your-life TV show. 

Anthony Cohen is the founder of The Menare Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Underground Railroad history, historic sites, and environments and to the creation of associated educational programs using history as a resource for community revitalization, race dialogue, and cultural growth.  Cohen’s visit is cosponsored by the Department of History and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College.