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Inside the Underground Railroad

  • Historian Anthony Cohen.
    Historian Anthony Cohen.

Location: John S. Toll Science Center

September 09, 2013
The historian who retraced the steps of runaway slaves from Maryland and Alabama north into Canada (and helped Oprah prepare for her role in Beloved) comes to campus Sept. 9 to share his stories.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Historian Anthony Cohen recounts his journeys retracing the route of the Underground Railroad in a free, public talk Monday evening, September 9, at Washington College. The talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Litrenta Lecture Hall, John S. Toll Science Center, and will be followed by a public reception. Cohen will describe his treks 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.  

In spring of 1996 Cohen, a fourth-generation descendant of a runaway slave, embarked on a two-month journey to explore the Underground Railroad—that secret network that countless slaves traveled to attain their freedom. Beginning in Sandy Spring, Md., he traveled north across the Canadian border, to Amherstburg, Ontario, tracing the steps of runaways on wilderness trails and waterways, through fugitive slave communities and Quaker sanctuaries. In 1998, he embarked on an even more ambitious journey, following the footsteps of fugitives from Mobile, Ala., to Windsor, Ontario. 

Cohen’s story has appeared in numerous radio and print sources. In 1997, using what he had learned about the Underground Railroad, he helped prepare 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 how Oprah used her journey through bondage as inspiration for her change-your-life TV show. 

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.


Last modified on Aug. 30th, 2013 at 4:44pm by .