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Non-profit preservation groups attend statewide Underground Railroad Colloquium

Lenwood Sloan, Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce and Economic Development’s (PCED) Tourism and Marketing Bureau, Debra McCauslin, representing Historic Gettysburg Adams County and Wayne Motts, executive director of the Adams County Historical Society gather at an Underground Railroad Colloquium at the John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh to discuss Adams County’s role in promoting the Underground Railroad.

(8/14) Promoting the people and places involved in the Underground Railroad throughout Pennsylvania was the topic of the state-sponsored Underground Railroad Colloquium held on August 11 and 12 in Pittsburgh. Adams County had representation from Wayne Motts, Adams County Historical Society’s executive director and Debra McCauslin, board member of Historic Gettysburg Adams County (HGAC).

Speakers participating in the colloquium included V. Chapman Smith of the National Archives, Dr. Howard Dodson of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City and Barbara Franco, Executive Director of the PA Historical and Museum Commission.

Smith described the Underground Railroad as," A complicated yet interesting story of community conflict. It was about law-abiding citizens and courageous people who took a risk to help others. It’s a story of safe houses, daring freedom-fighters, freedom-seekers and also about those who were left behind."

Participants learned strategies for marketing the Underground Railroad on a local level. They were encouraged to package, promote and interpret people and places connected with the Underground Railroad to encourage visitation. Smith encouraged attendees to make their displays and programs interactive with an emphasis on reaching youth so that school groups are attracted to the communities for learning experiences and field trips. Developing curriculum which can be used to further the learning experience was also suggested.

HGAC recently nominated three sites to the National Park Service’s National Network to Freedom. They are hopeful that the African American church and cemetery on Biglerville’s Yellow Hill, the Menallen Friends and Huntington Friends Meetinghouse’s cemeteries will be approved to be added to the Network. HGAC’s Preservation Committee under the direction of Curt Musselman took the lead in this effort to promote the Adams County freedom-fighters. HGAC contracted consultant Randolph Harris of Mt. Joy to submit the nominations with assistance by McCauslin, a local historian who wrote a book about her research of a pre-Civil War African-American community that lived near Biglerville and the Quakers of Menallen Township. McCauslin serves on the HGAC Preservation Committee and the Board of Directors. Plans are underway to nominate more sites in Adams County to the Network to Freedom as there are several other sites which deserve recognition.

For more information on the Underground Railroad in Adams County, contact Historic Gettysburg Adams County at 334-5185 or visit the Adams County Historical Society located on Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge.

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