Author Topic: Help me understand the Underground Railroad thing here...  (Read 85 times)

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Offline Twilight

Help me understand the Underground Railroad thing here...
« on: March 14, 2019, 08:12:34 am »
So I went through this section of the website and I am a bit confused as to what this section is really all about and why exactly?

I started from the beginning and all the original links that provide information and what this is really all about is broken or down by now and this is a very old section now.

I am also a bit of a student on African American history over the years after being ignorant to much of it most of my life, and very conscious of racism and the history of it in our country. I am very disturbed by much of it all, especially the older I get. I have been personally impacted by racism in one way or another and this hits a nerve a little deeper with me.

Is this a bike trail that was put together that coincides or runs along parts of the original Underground Railroad that the slaves used to escape and that is what all this is about? There just isn't enough information in there for me to put it all together or even be clear about what exactly it all is and all the posts about. So is this a safe assumption? Is there some type of original map(s) posted to all this?

"Why" was this done originally? What was the original motivation to do all this and by who? Why would "this" community be more conscious, aware, or active about such things?

If I am correct and assuming this is in fact a bike trail along parts of the original underground railroad, isn't that disturbing to you to be riding along something like that and knowing what took place along there? How can you possibly enjoy your ride and continually stay conscious of something like that?

Is that something someone really "needs" to do? If so, why?

I didn't really realize what all this was until just now, and the hair is standing up on the back of my neck a bit realizing the closeness of all this suddenly if you want me to be honest.

Wouldn't that be like going through Auschwitz on your bicycle for a joy ride, for historical value, or for kicks in many ways?

Sounds like this has been going on for a very long time now...what long term value has all this brought? How much of an impact or awareness has all this brought?

Or am I just missing the boat and completely have all this wrong?

Sorry, I am a bit forward and blunt. I honestly don't know what to quite think.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 08:16:19 am by Twilight »

Offline GSullivan

Re: Help me understand the Underground Railroad thing here...
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2019, 03:18:29 pm »
Hi Twilight,

We developed the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route to honor history of that time and showcase the amazing bravery of the freedom seekers and safe havens provided for them during a dark time in our history. We have done a few historic themed routes, including the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail, to commemorate the corridors that explorers took during that part of history. The idea behind honoring the UGRR was a request by our members and we partnered directly with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Minority Health (the center has since changed it's name to The Center for Health Equity). With their assistance we developed and were guided in this project by an advisory group made up of civil rights advocates, minority health experts, UGRR experts, and others to help us translate and portray the history accurately. The National Park Service UGRR Network to Freedom was also an important partner in this project.

The route is honorary in nature as there was no "one" route freedom seekers took to escape slavery. We choose a route based on a spiritual called "Follow the Drinking Gourd" however since developing the corridor of the route, researchers have questioned the songs authenticity. Our partner historians acknowledge this but also provided context that the song was at least related to true spirituals and provided a guide for us to follow for a one dimensional route.

The Center for Minority Health's interest in working with us on the bike route was an effort to encourage African Americans and all American's to learn this history by human powered means. The bicycle is a wonderful way to see, feel, learn and experience movement, history, and culture while improving your health.  Since the inception of the route(s), we've worked with people who take students on the UGRR as an experiential learning opportunity and it's inspired people from all walks of life to understand the circumstances around the complex and horrific realities of the time both previous to and after the civil war.

I would like to respond to all your comments and would love to talk with you about the process and reasons for this route. I am out of the office until next week 3/18), but please call 406-721-1776 and ask for me, Ginny Sullivan. I take your concerns very seriously and want to make sure I respond completely.

I would also like to add that you are quite right, much of the content on the website is old and links are broken. It wasn't our intention to let this information go lapse and we are very appreciative that you've brought this to our attention. We are working to fix that immediately.

Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I hope we can connect via phone very soon.

Best regards,
Ginny Sullivan, Director of Travel Initiatives
Ginny Sullivan

Offline Twilight

Re: Help me understand the Underground Railroad thing here...
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 06:37:31 pm »
Thanks for taking the time out to write me.

I think that I am just more surprised about this all more than anything. I am not sure what to think of it all because it is such a dark part of our history, and it is still a part of our history we can't even speak about with each other without problems, ignorance, and hate surrounding it all. Try having a conversation with a white person about "Black Wall Street" and that it ever even existed or happened at all.

When I hear of stuff like this my first thoughts are, "was one done for trail of tears or any other indigenous group?"

"Since the inception of the route(s), we've worked with people who take students on the UGRR as an experiential learning opportunity and it's inspired people from all walks of life to understand the circumstances around the complex and horrific realities of the time both previous to and after the civil war. "

"All walks of life??" What students?? Students from inner city poverty who are the living legacies of all that hate, violence, and forced poverty on people?

My experience is that majority of brown and black folks are not even close to being up to par with having bicycles like white folks and inside white communities. Even online bicycle groups, forums, etc... are dominated by white folks, and even from a marketing perspective, is clearly geared towards white people on a whole. Not to mention that majority of those generations of folks that exist from all of that forced violence, hate, and segregation, many of them don't even have access to technology to find out something like this exists. I am very tech savy, lurk at many online bicycle forums and sites, and only "stumbled" upon this, and even when I went to figure out what it is all about, I couldn't understand it. So I am not sure of the "learning opportunities" it is really creating unless people happen to ride past it or stumble upon it like I have here.

So how are those "all walks of life" getting exposure to all this when so many of them don't even have a bicycle, technology to hear about it, or come close to having one to go see something like this?

Guess I am still having a tough time understanding all this and processing it. Just doesn't seem logical in many ways to come this deep into bicycle, never hear of any of it catering to black folks, never mind wanting to be social or consciously aware of all this, and to discover it all hiding in here.

I guess I just don't understand why bicyclist would care so much to begin with. This is not something that is on the forefront of just about anyone's mind that I ever meet, especially cyclist. In fact, I have never heard of anyone speaking on social injustice issues, African American history, or the likes in two years of serious bicycle reading, research, etc... until just now. So that really shows how conscious we are of such matters.

At the same token, I come to bicycle stuff to get away from all that stuff and not have to focus on it anymore than I do. So it was a complete "shock" in many ways to see all this.

I don't want to invest too much time or energy into it and figure I would just ask some questions since it seemed dead on the subject and topic anyway. You probably do "not" want a phone call from me on the subject matter to be honest. Probably never get me to shut up on the subject either.

The reality is that there are more people in slavery today than there has been EVER in any period of time, and there are more people in human trafficking as sex slaves today then there ever has been in time either. Most people could care less...until it happens to them.