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Annual Conference

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The Network to Freedom has joined with local partners to present an annual UGRR conference beginning in 2007. These conferences bring together a mix of grass roots researchers, community advocates, site stewards, government officials, and scholars to explore the history of the Underground Railroad. Rotated to different parts of the country, the conferences highlight the unique history of various regions along with new research.


Upcoming Conference:


Escaping to Destinations South: The Underground Railroad, Cultural Identity, and Freedom Along the Southern Borderlands


June 20-24, 2012
St. Augustine, Florida


The 2012 Conference theme is the resistance to slavery through escape and flight to and from the South, including through international flight, from the 16th century to the end of the Civil War. Traditional views of the Underground Railroad focus on Northern destinations of freedom seekers, with symbols such as the North Star, Canada, and the Ohio River (the River Jordan) constructed as the primary beacons of freedom. This conception reduces the complexity of the Underground Railroad by ignoring the many freedom seekers that sought to obtain their freedom in southern destinations.

Likewise, borders and the movement across them by southern freedom seekers are also very crucial to our understanding of the complexities of the Underground Railroad. Freedom seekers often sought out political and geographical borderlands, as crossing these locations usually represented the divide between slavery and freedom. To this end, the conference will explore how southern freedom seekers seized opportunities to escape slavery into Spanish Florida and the Seminole Nation, to the Caribbean Islands, and into the western borderlands of Indian Territory, Texas, and Mexico.

Escape from enslavement was not just about physical freedom, but also about the search for cultural autonomy. The conference will explore the transformation and creation of new cultural identities among southern freedom seekers that occurred as a result of their journeys to freedom, such as the dispersal of Gullah Geechee culture and the formation of Black Seminole cultural identity.

The 2012 Conference will include participation by independent and academic scholars at all levels, educators, community activists, public historians and preservationists, and multi-media and performance artists. The conference seeks to create a cultural, historical, and interpretive exchange between domestic and international descendent communities of southern freedom seekers.

Gullah Geechee and Black Seminole descendents are particularly welcome at the conference.



For more information on how to participate in the 2012 Conference as an organizational partner or presenter, contact Turkiya L. Lowe, Ph.D, Southeast Region, National Park Service, turkiya_lowe@nps.gov, 404-507-5830.

2012 Call for Proposals and Affiliated Events


 Past Conferences:


September 10-15, 2007    Georgetown, Kentucky
September 15-20, 2008    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 16-19, 2009    Indianapolis, Indiana
July 28-31, 2010    Topeka, Kansas
June 15-18, 2011    Clermont County, Ohio (Cincinnati)