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NPS Supports Young Cyclists on a 1800 Mile Ride Along the Underground Railroad

2011-06-07

By Turkiya L. Lowe, Southeast Region Interpretation & Education Division

The NPS National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, the Interpretation and Education Division, Youth Programs Office, and the Office of Public Health have partnered with Spoke 'N Revolutions Youth Cycling to take a group of diverse high school students from Chapel Hill, NC on an 1800 mile ride along the Underground Railroad.  The journey from Mobile, Alabama to Niagara Falls, New York, follows the longest route that many enslaved people used to escape to freedom.  The NPS is co-sponsoring this effort to educate the public about the history of the Underground Railroad and promote healthy lifestyles among youth as part of Let’s Move Outside.

Spoke ‘N Revolutions’ theme for the 2011 cycling adventure is Freedom.  As quoted on the group’s website:

“This bicycle trip serves as an attempt for the students to learn not only of the struggles of those attempting to escape bondage, but to learn of the hardships endured, the kind and kindred souls that helped them along the way, and the bravery, courage, and perseverance it took to reach their freedom.

Aligning with the NPS commitment to responsible resource stewardship, Spoke ʻN Revolutions also promotes cycling as part of a bigger strategy to reduce the environmental footprint of our society.  Spoke ‘N Revolutions works to increase the use of bicycles as transportation and improve the health and sustainability of our neighborhoods by connecting youth with the extraordinary living systems of our local area, and building a diverse community of visionary young leaders.  The students, who have been training for over a year to prepare for this ride of a lifetime, built their own bikes with recycled parts through working with The ReCYCLEry, NC, a 501c3 bicycle coop. 

The students will visit NP units and partner sites listed in the NPS Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, such as the recently designated Harriet Beecher Stowe House.  They will also visit and serve as VIPs in park units that are listed in the Network to Freedom for their interpretation of Underground Railroad history such as Fort Donelson National Battlefield.  The Spoke ‘N Revolutions travel route will take them along the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, into Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and through several heritage areas such as Niagara Falls.  

The students will blog about their experiences from the road on the Let’s Move Outside website.  They have also coordinated with the Network to Freedom Program to greet the 2011 National Underground Railroad Conference, taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 15-18th, via Skype.

For more information on Spoke ‘N Revolutions Youth Cycling, visit their website at http://snr.chcpact.org/.

Visit http://www.npg.gov/history/ugrr/ for more information on the NPS National Underground Railroad Network To Freedom Program.