Marshall University and its partners in the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative will host a panel discussion Tuesday, April 25, at 10:30 a.m. at the A.D. Lewis Community Center, 1450 A.D. Lewis Avenue in Huntington. The discussion will be focused on the local history of the Underground Railroad in the Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia Tri-State region.
The program is co-sponsored by the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and the discussion, along with one on Monday, April 24, at Shawnee State University, will mark the start of a three-year, Tri-State historical marker and tourism initiative. The program is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Grant program.
Dr. Cicero Fain III, assistant provost of inclusive excellence at Marshall, says the program is a great thing for the region.
“A fuller story of Black agency and white allyship remains to be told,” Fain said. “The identification, documentation and preservation of previously unknown sites on the Underground Railroad is not only fundamental to chronicling an important chapter of the unwritten history of the region but critical to the development of a diversified cultural heritage tourism industry in the region and state.”
The program on April 25 will provide an overview of the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative, which being led by the Lawrence Economic Development Corp, which partners in five Ohio, two Kentucky and two West Virginia counties. Regional managers of the National Parks Service will discuss the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. They’ll focus on how it has helped other communities throughout the country with their economic development and tourism efforts.
As part of the presentation, Dr. Andrew Feight, the director of the Center for Public History at Shawnee State University, along with Fain, who is also the author of Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story, will discuss the local history of the Underground Railroad and their plans for directing the research and community outreach involved in identifying, documenting and nominating historical sites to the NPS’ Network to Freedom.
“The Tri-State region has a rich and dramatic history of Underground Railroad activity,” Feight said. “With the Ohio River running through the region, having once separated the slaveholding states of Kentucky and then-Virginia from the free state of Ohio, this local history reminds us that American history happened right here.”
Feight and Fain will share some of the dramatic stories of flight, escape and freedom that tell the local history of the Underground Railroad. The discussion is free and open to the public.