The public can be part of ‘a transformative story’

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— Photo from the Underground Railroad History Project

Even the bricks are authentic: Mary Liz and Paul Stewart have led the restoration of The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence at 194 Livingston Ave. in Albany to share the story of Stephen Myers, a slave who, after receiving his freedom, turned his home into a refuge for escaped slaves. The Underground Railroad History Project will hold an open house at the residence on March 26 to culminate its annual conference.

Mary Liz and Paul Stewart want to offer perspective on the issues of today and educate people on how previous historical struggles can give guidance during such politically divisive times.

“In my view, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom, the Declaration of Independence is a symbol of freedom, and we are at risk of losing the freedoms these represent in this country,” says Ms. Stewart.

The Stewarts, who have been married for over 30 years, founded the Underground Railroad History Project together. They organized Americans@Risk to discuss struggles for equity, health care, education, and voting rights from the abolitionist movement to the present.

The Underground Railroad History Project will be hosting an event at Schenectady County Community College on March 24 and 25, an interactive program that reflects on the struggles of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement to draw parallels with today’s political environment. It is titled “Americans@Risk: Race, Denial, Privilege, and Who Matters.”

“This is a very transformative story, not just the same old, same old,” says Ms. Stewart. “Abolitionists weren’t just against slavery. It was the beginning of the civil rights movement…The correlation between past and present has been obscured to us.”

On March 24, from 7 to 9 p.m., Tom Wise will speak. He is an antiracist educator and writer, the author of seven books, including, “Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority.” The next day, events run from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the keynote address will be given by CeLillianne Green, a lawyer, poet, and mediator.

Mr. Stewart says that the program will look at the roots connecting past and present through issues like immigration and the drug war, and the previous fight to abolish slavery. He cited the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery, but lacked coverage concerning forced labor in cases of crimes committed.

“One of the keys that still linger is slavery,” he said.

A follow-up event will be held on March 26, from 1 to 3 p.m., at The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence at 194 Livingston Ave. in Albany to share the story of Stephen Myers, a slave who, after receiving his freedom, turned his home into a refuge for escaped slaves.

The Stephen and Harriet Myers home was built in the 1840s and was purchased in 2004 by the Underground Railroad History Project. The project has, since 2007, gradually restored the Myerses’ residence with great attention to detail and historical accuracy. For example, the same style of 1847 bricks that were originally used in the home’s construction were used in its restoration.

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A total of 500 seats are available for the March 24 and 25 events, with general admission at $40; seniors get a $10 discount, and students are admitted for $10. The events will be held at 78 Washington Ave. in Schenectady. More information is available at http://undergroundrailroadhistory.org/events-calendar/.

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