Individuals’ journeys to freedom from slavery were highlighted and the role of the physical railroad was examined in ‘The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad’
BALTIMORE, MD – August 25, 2022 – The new permanent exhibition, “The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad,” examines the role of the physical railroad in the Underground Railroad network and gives an intimate look at the lives and journeys of 27 individuals who sought freedom from slavery along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The exhibition will open on September 24 at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.
The B&O Railroad Museum is the birthplace of American railroading, and the new permanent exhibition will be located within the museum’s historic Mt. Clare Station – a National Historic Landmark, a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site, and the exact location through which eight Freedom Seekers traveled, including Henry “Box” Brown and William and Ellen Craft.
The exhibition’s immersive multi-media experiences provide an intimate look at the journeys of these Freedom Seekers who passed through the museum’s Mt. Clare Station as told from their own perspectives. A song written and performed by Henry “Box” Brown that details his harrowing journey to freedom in 1849 in a box measuring only 2 feet 8 inches deep, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet long, has been newly recorded and produced in collaboration with the Howard University Department of Music and is featured in the exhibition. The dynamic displays also detail the stories of well-known Freedom Seekers William and Ellen Craft who also passed through Mt. Clare Station. Ellen dressed as a white male planter disguising both her race and sex and traveled with her husband, William, who posed as her enslaved servant.
The exhibition also contains historic artifacts including a Freedom Paper on loan from Xavier University of Louisiana. In this way, the exhibition explores what travel along the B&O Railroad was like for both free Black people and for those pursuing freedom from slavery during this time, as Baltimore boasted the largest free Black population in America during the time of slavery and served as a linchpin for enslaved people traveling North to freedom as the main conduit to Pennsylvania, the southernmost Northern state.
“The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad” exhibition opening comes exactly one year after the B&O Railroad Museum received its official designation as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site from the National Park Service. To date, 27 Freedom Seekers are documented as having used the B&O Railroad during their journeys, of the approximately 100,000 enslaved people who used the Underground Railroad network to seek their freedom from slavery. This documentation was revealed in part through research conducted at the B&O Railroad Museum’s own Hays T. Watkins Research Library & Archives.
“This exhibition is important on many levels; it shares the stories of the ingenuity of the Freedom Seekers and highlights their own voices; it is one of the only Network to Freedom Sites in the country to explore the role the physical railroad played in the Underground Railroad, and it is using new technology to convey these stories. We hope this exhibition promotes a sense of civic pride for Baltimoreans,” said Kris Hoellen, Executive Director of the B&O Railroad Museum. “We thank the National Park Service, our donors, our advisors, and our staff for making this exhibition possible.”
“The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad” will open on Saturday, September 24, at the B&O Railroad Museum, 901 West Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21223.
Timed exhibition entry passes will be required and can be reserved with online museum admission ticket purchases at www.borail.org/undergroundRR. Museum admission tickets with timed exhibition entry passes will go on sale on September 8 at the start of International Underground Railroad Month. The museum is open Monday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Celebrations marking the exhibition opening will take place during the first two weekends including family craft stations and activities in the museum’s pavilion. (September 24 & 25 and October 1 & 2) Timed exhibition entry passes will be required for these dates as well.
Exhibition programming will be scheduled to take place each month during the first year of this new permanent exhibition. October’s feature is a food-tasting event titled, “From Biscuits to Freedom Cake: The Culinary Journey of Henry “Box” Brown.” The full calendar of programming, details, and ticket information will be available at www.borail.org/undergroundRR.
The research and new exhibition have been made possible in part by a major grant from the Division of Research Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities* (NEH). Additional support for the exhibition has been provided by CSX, Amtrak, BGE, Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., The Baltimore Community Foundation, Baltimore Heritage, The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, The Maryland Historical Trust, and Preservation Maryland.