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Exhibit Explores Parallels Between Underground Railroad, Black Lives Matter Efforts In College Hill

An exhibit opening Sept. 18 draws connections between the current, weekly Black Lives Matter demonstrations in College Hill and the 1853 escape of 28 freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad.
An exhibit opening Sept. 18 draws connections between the current, weekly Black Lives Matter demonstrations in College Hill and the 1853 escape of 28 freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad.

In 1853, 28 people made their escape along the Underground Railroad, making their way from Boone County, Kentucky, through College Hill and neighboring communities on their way to freedom in Canada. An outdoor pop-up exhibit seeks to tell their story in tandem with a look at current anti-racism activism.

The exhibit is titled "The Journey Continues: Abolition to Black Lives Matter."

Historical photos and maps depict the "Escape of the 28," through local neighborhoods disguised as a funeral procession. They're presented alongside images from "Line the Avenue" for Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have been happening since June on Sundays along Hamilton Ave. from Northside through Mt. Healthy.

"We were saying, 'Isn't this the same story?,' " says Diana Porter, a community historian and board member with the College Hill Historical Society. "An integrated group of people coming together to say we're going to work together to make sure that Black futures matter."

The exhibit utilizes 11 display windows in an old storefront at 5920 Hamilton Ave, with each window panel containing different parts of the story. People can safely view it from the sidewalk, and are encouraged to wear masks and keep social distance while viewing.

"We start out with Harriet Tubman welcoming everyone to the exhibit and asking the question 'What can you do?' " Porter explains.

"Locally, there were abolitionists in 1853 who showed great courage at coming out and supporting freedom seekers as they found their way from Boone County, Kentucky, to Canada, and we see today that many people - especially many young people - are coming out and showing courage to say it's time for us to also support and show that Black futures matter. We're very pleased to have an exhibit that brings these two ideas together."

Hamilton Avenue Road to Freedom and the College Hill Historical Society received a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council to create the exhibit. It will run from Sept. 18 - Oct. 15.

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