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Journey through history: Live Underground Railroad experience educates children - The Journal

Published: 03/02/2018
Photo: South Middle School Principal Rosa Clark, director of the Underground Railroad Journey, shows a quilt hand-made for her by retired art teacher Kathy Johns, who made each square a different symbol from the Underground Railroad. Journal photos by Tabitha Johnston.

Originally published in The Journal on Feb. 4


MARTINSBURG–For the Kids, By George Children’s Museum hosted a Live Underground Railroad Journey Saturday afternoon.

“It’s history that kids can visually see and participate in and be a part of,” said South Middle School Principal Rosa Clark, who has directed the program for years. “This makes it cool, because it is in a train station, and the Underground Railroad was a human train that correlates to the physical train that runs on the track.”

“I did an introduction of bringing the slaves from Africa to the states, then I told the story about Tice Davis, who escaped from Kentucky. His master said he went away on an underground railroad, and that’s how the name got started,” Clark said. Clark also shared spirituals and songs from the Underground Railroad as examples of how slaves remembered the Underground Railroad’s train terminology and symbols.

“Every year it’s a different group of people that come. Sometimes home schoolers come–they use it as part of their curriculum,” Clark said. “The age ranges from children parents carry in their arms to middle school.”

“I used to actually do this for my classes–all of South Middle School was involved,” said Clark, who taught for 28 years before joining school administration.

Her friend and now-retired art teacher Kathy Johns appreciated Clark’s dedication to the program so much, she hand-sewed a quilt for Clark in 2005 with quilt squares showing different symbols from the Underground Railroad.

To complete the Live Underground Railroad Journey, children had to navigate from slavery to freedom, interacting at different stations with volunteers who played the roles of different people they might have met on the Underground Railroad.

When they collected three signs from members of the Underground Railroad, they received a completion certificate from Museum Director Robbie Babbitt.

“The town of Martinsburg has so much history in it–the Underground Railroad did go under Martinsburg,” Clark said, explaining how she helps the kids visualize this. “When the train goes through, I always tell the children that it was a human train, not a train on the track.”

“We came out today because the kids love history, especially the Civil War, and it’s Black History Month,” said Mary Jackson of Martinsburg. Jackson said it was their first time visiting the museum, and it took her two kids about 45 minutes to complete the program.

“I think what stood out to me was all of the things to do,” said her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah Jackson. “It really explained the history a lot more because there’s so much to do.”

The Live Underground Railroad Journey is one of For the Kids, By George’s Special Saturdays programs, which are held one Saturday a month.

For more information about museum hours and events, visit http://forthekidsbygeorge.org/calendar/.

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