June 18-20 Marshall Lewis
Saturday, June 18
After we left Gainsville the group continued onward to a town called Aliceville, where we were scheduled to stay in a National Guard Armory. Unfortunately, our guide never showed up to open the facility. But once again our lucky streak (or I should say, Suepinda’s lucky streak) continued as local Paster, Charlie Wilson, both opened up his home as well as his wallet as he provided us a place to sleep and bought us dinner from a local dive (actually, a nice local restaurant). His hospitality is greatly appreciated and I thank him for his support. It is because if people like him that allowed for the slaves to successfully reach freedom, as well as SNR being able to complete our journey.
Sunday, June 19 ~ Pickensville, Al
On this morning we made our first “official” underground railroad stop: meaning that this was the first town in which it’s history was engraved with slavery. The local church was run by conductors, people who gave escapees shelter. The church had 10 hidden rooms where they hid slaves from the eyes of southern catchers. When we toured the town the mayor expressed how even though the town’s population has decreased since it’s conductor days, they are still striving to educate the population on the harsh conditions of the fleeing africans. In fact, both the mayor and commissioner are planning to open an underground railroad museum, thus creating the first underground railroad museum in all of Alabama. Crazy right? Its amazing that in 2011 southern states still haven’t begun to set up landmarks and museums for the underground railroad. It just goes to show you how there is still a lot of work to do to give people a broader understanding the journey that many enslaved persons had to take to obtain freedom. That night we stayed with local Quakers John and Andrea: with their children, Nicholas, Bea, and Olivia. On the farm they taught us how to milk goats and ride horses. It was one of those nights where we could relax and enjoy ourselves after a long day; one that I think we really needed.
Monday, June 20 ~ Brice’s Crossroads
Today SNR embarked on it’s first history lesson on the use of colored troops in the civil war. The group visited Brice’s Crossroads, where Union and Confederate troops collided in a battle which ended up in the retreat of the Union forces. In the fray the army commanded the US colored troops to send cover fire at the advancing southerners in an effort to cover their retreat. Amazingly, in a mission that was meant to be one of a human shield, the US Colored Troops laid down some of the most devastating fire in all of the civil war and successfully halted the southern troop advancement enough to allow many of the 8000 Union soldiers to retreat. This was just one example of how African Americans began to earn respect for their actions and began to become recognized as equal (or inching closer to that reality), and I believe that we must all honor those who died fighting in this struggle.
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