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2009 Freedom Days
The Making of the Underground Railroad
News Release
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Making of the Underground Railroad is a Galveston Historical Foundation program for students 8 to 12 years of age that is held each year in conjunction with the Galveston-wide celebration of Juneteenth. This year the Underground Railroad program is being held on Thursday, June 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Garten Verein Pavilion and Kempner Park. The event is free and open to the public but pre-registration is required. Children who participate must be accompanied by an adult chaperone

New this year

Two Galveston professional musicians will be new to the program this year. June Pulliam will teach students period songs themed to the Underground Railroad experience. Curt Gillins, featuring “Magic of the Drums” will present an interactive history of African drums.  

Pulliam is a native Galvestonian (B.O.I.) who was educated in Galveston I. S. D. She received her B.S. in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University and her M.A. in Psychology from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. In addition to more than 20 years experience as a board-certified music therapist and psychodramatist, she is also a licensed Kindermusik Educator. Currently, she works as a band director, teacher, and accompanist for the Galveston Homeschool Performing Arts Co-op. She also teaches private music lessons and homeschools her two teen daughters.

The children who participate in the Underground Railroad program will be invited to sing the songs Pulliam teaches them the day after the program at Ashton Villa on Friday, June 19, 2009 (Juneteenth) during the Emancipation Proclamation program and prayer breakfast. 

Gillins will offer an interactive history of the drum with his presentation of “The Magic of the Drum.”  Children will take an unforgettable journey in the sounds of the past.  Gillins is a B.O. I. and has over 30 years of drumming experience.  He studied the rhythms and cultural traditions of the drum during extensive travels throughout Africa. He has worked as a percussionist in California and has been an annual performer at Galveston’s Grand Opera Children’s Festival.

In memory of Matt Stanford, an annual Underground Railroad participant and founder of Aesop’s Fables Theatre Troupe, members of the troupe: B. W. York (B.O.I), Derek Ashford and Dan Braverman will join this year’s cast of Underground Railroad. 

Underground Railroad characters to be represented include:

Henry “Box” Brown, played by James Steadham

Escaped to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a shipping box – delivered to William Still.

Eliza Harris, played by Marie Freeman

After learning that she would be sold, swam the partially frozen Ohio River with her baby son to freedom.

Patty Cannon, played by Pam Gilbert 

Reverse Underground Railroad near Delaware. Using the same terminology and similar routes, she and her gang captured free salves, tortured and sold them to slave owners. Some sources labeled her as the first female serial killer in America; she tortured and killed whites, blacks and children.

Lavinia Bell, played by Ella Lewis

Born free and kidnapped when a child, she became a slave in Galveston, Texas. Until the age of 15, she lived in the home of her master. After she was sent to the field to work, Lavinia attempted to escape several times, was captured and harshly punished. Her final escape took her to Canada where she told her story.

Harriet Tubman, played by Gloria Ellisor

A runaway slave, known as the “Moses of her people.” Over the course of 10 years, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

Frederick Douglass, played by Clarence Caroline

Born a slave, he escaped when he obtained the appropriate papers supplied by a free black seaman. He dressed as a sailor just back from duty and took a train from Baltimore to New York. An orator and author, he became one of the best known black abolitionists.

Thomas Garrett

Harriett Tubman’s friend and a major stationmaster. As an abolitionist, he provided shelter, food, money and directions to find safe places for runaway slaves. Taken to court for his involvement and fined over $5000, he continued to help slaves and stated that he would before leaving court. 

Mr. and Mrs. Levi and Catherine Coffin, presented by Scott Crossno

Mr. Coffin, was referred to by many as the “President of the Underground Railroad” in Indiana. The Coffins had several safe houses, including their home.  Their home had many secret hiding places. They helped ten of thousands to escape to freedom.

The Still Family, presented by Derek Ashford 

Peter Still (Slave name Peter Fredman) and brother (Levin) were left behind when his mother, father and two sisters escaped.  His brother died, but Peter purchased his freedom for 500 dollars 40 years later, leaving his wife and children. Looking for help to free his family Peter met a man in Philadelphia who turned out to be his younger brother (William). Peter was finally able to purchase his wife and children for $5000.  

William Still, born free, helped many slaves escape.  A leader in the Abolition Society, William secretly documented slave narratives. He authored several books and became wealthy.  William met Peter when he was documenting his escape story and trying to get help to free his family.  The family history and escape story was familiar and he determined that Peter was his brother.  Their mother was still alive and Peter was reunited with his sisters and other family members. 

Robert Smalls, presented by Lillie Little (As wife Hannah)

From slave to Congressman. Hired out to work on a Confederate ship, he learned how to navigate the ship and all the singles to travel the waters. While the captain and all his men were away, Robert took command of the ship with his family and friends aboard and turned the ship over to the Union Army. In 2004 a Navy Vessel (Logistics Support Vessel – LSV-8) was named the Major General Robert Smalls. In 2005, Army Fort Eustis in Virginia named its newest lodging facility the General Smalls Inn.     

William and Ellen Craft, presented by Christine Hayes

Ellen looked more like her father (the slave owner) than his own children.  Ellen’s husband (William) designed a plan for their escape.  She would dress as a male slave owner and he as his slave and they would travel to freedom by train.  With a few close calls they escaped to Philadelphia and later to Canada, when posted as fugitives.

Pierce Harper, presented by B. W. York

One of many ex-slaves interviewed during the Federal Writer’s Project (1936-1938). He was born in 1851and sold to Mr. Harper for $1100 at eight years old in North Carolina.  He was interviewed in Galveston, Texas at age 86.  He shared his experience as a slave as well as how his father and other slaves were treated.  Mr. Harper had several jobs after freedom, and came to Galveston, Texas in 1877 and joined First Union Baptist Church and was a preacher for 25 years.

For more information about the Underground Railroad program, contact Tommie Boudreaux (409) 740-0454 or Denise Alexander (409) 765-7834.

For coverage of Freedom Days - Juneteenth to the Fourth of July - Click Here

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