Woodrow Keown, Jr.
On June 14, we celebrated the signing of House Bill 340, designating September as International Underground Railroad Month. We applaud the efforts of Representatives Adam Bird and Willis Blackshear who co-sponsored this bill and have been working with their colleagues and supporters across the state to bring this bill to fruition. We thank Governor Mike DeWine for signing this significant bill into law. This is a historic moment, recognizing the ongoing legacy of the Underground Railroad and Ohio’s prominent role in the liberation of enslaved people.
The Underground Railroad was the nation’s first social justice movement and Ohio was a pivotal state on the long road to liberation. Towns across the state – from Cincinnati to Sandusky, Ripley to Zanesville, Greenville to Massillon – provided refuge and safe passage to those self-liberating through the Underground Railroad.
Conductors in towns and homes along the Ohio River greeted passengers as they took their first steps on free soil. Through the courage and cooperation of strangers, enslaved people persevered through the trails and wilderness of southern Ohio. Ohio conductors and abolitionists risked their lives to provide shelter to exhausted, freezing families making the long journey to freedom. They took food from their pantries and fields to feed starving freedom seekers who risked their lives to breathe free.
These principles of courage, cooperation and perseverance were the founding principles of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, established to preserve and share the stories of the Underground Railroad. As millions across the country are struggling to self-liberate from various forms of unfreedom, these principles are just as critical today. Each September will be a reminder that we must all be conductors, carrying on the legacy of those intrepid freedom seekers and conductors of the Underground Railroad. Each International Underground Railroad Month will inspire us to tap our own courage to pursue what’s right; to extend a hand to those different from us, to those in need; to persevere until we are all free.
The Underground Railroad is not a moment in history. It is an ongoing source of inspiration to freedom seekers around the world.