History Students Follow Trail of Fugitive Slaves

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    Members of Professor Wilson's Underground Railroad class walk through the woods listening to the audio tour.
    Photo: Anna Poli
October 30, 2013
In October, Professor Carol Wilson’s history class visited Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely to take the new audio tour, “Nature’s Role in the Flight to Freedom”.

The tour, developed by scholars and arboretum programmers, immerses visitors in the environment traveled by fugitive slaves escaping to the North and Canada along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The tour guides visitors along one of the arboretum’s hiking trails with a dozen stops to listen to audio clips focused on various aspects of the runaway experience. Actors recreate the voices and words of Maryland fugitives, including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. The day of the class visit was cloudy and dark, and even on sunny days, not much sunlight penetrates the woods. The students were particularly taken with the notion of trying to traverse the same terrain–crossed by streams, tree roots, thick brush–in the dark of night, when most slaves would have traveled. 

Many students found the tour “inspiring”. Others noted that it really enabled them to visualize the experience of the slaves they had been reading about and discussing in class. One student said that the tour helped to “paint an image of the actual Underground Railroad.”


Last modified on Nov. 5th, 2013 at 9:11am by Carol Wilson.