New Freedom Center honors true Americans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Lawrence County was a significant junction on the Underground Railroad, the secret network that helped thousands of runaway slaves in this country find their freedom.

Many local abolitionists, including Ironton founder John Campbell, played major roles in assisting some of these people make it to the "promised land."

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Therefore, it is only fitting that a part of Lawrence County will be included in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, which was officially dedicated Monday.

A local delegation gathered "free soil" from locations such as Campbell's house, the Lawrence County Museum and the Briggs Lawrence County Library to be placed in a ceremonial urn. That soil will be used later as the base for Freedom Park, which is scheduled to be opened in 2007.

A decade in the making, the museum is dedicated to the memory of the rugged journey thousands of slaves were forced to endure in the 1800s and their eventual flight to freedom. The Freedom Center is more than a museum for artifacts, however. It is also a place where people can go to learn about the plights of both the escaping slaves and those who helped lead them to freedom.

Locally, a group is coordinating a fund-raising effort to turn the old Lawrence County Jail in Burlington into an Underground Railroad museum. While it surely will not be as extravagant as the Freedom Center, its purpose is just the same.

Those who participated in the Underground Railroad had the spirit of what America is about today: everyone, regardless of race, age or religion, is entitled to their freedom. We are proud that our state recognizes these brave men and women who escaped slavery to obtain their freedom and those who risked their lives to assist them.

We encourage everyone to visit the Freedom Center and, more important, show your support for the local efforts to open an Underground Railroad museum.