It is a truism that the Underground Railroad was neither “underground” nor a “railroad.” Rather, it signifies resistance to enslavement through escape and flight and refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage through the end of the U.S. Civil War. Aided by free African Americans, indigenous tribal members, and abolitionists, enslaved African Americans escaped to freedom in northern states and to other countries and territories where slavery was illegal.
In Spring 2021, NPS Network to Freedom staff requested that US/ICOMOS partner with them to expand the context of the Underground Railroad to an international scope. Our Emerging Professional Network (EPN) agreed to assist. EPN member Kaitlin Paecklar, with assistance from President Douglas Comer, EPN Chair Zoe Leung and staff, will oversee US/ICOMOS’s efforts to:
- Promote and celebrate International Underground Railroad Month in September 2021,
- Engage international partners in the initiative, and
- Expand the NPS Underground Railroad Mapping Project to include international sites outside the United States.
US/ICOMOS has secured cooperative commitments from three ICOMOS national committees–Canada, The Netherlands, and Brazil—and is actively recruiting more national committees to participate. The international mapping project will launch in September, when we will reach out to members and partners to collect information and stories about sites connected to the Underground Railroad.
Click on the links to learn more about the Underground Railroad, the Network to Freedom, and the U.S. Underground Railroad Mapping Project. If you would like to assist with the project, please contact us at EPWG [at] usicomos.org.