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Celebrating freedom

The many potholes and speed bumps along the road to freedom and equality in America will be the focus of all the events of Ohio University Southern campus’ Freedom Festival.

“Some people don’t realize the impact the leaders, characteristics and personalities (of this area) played in the Underground Railroad,” Dave Lucas, OUS’s acting associate dean and a Freedom Festival committee member, said. “To highlight that shows who we are and that we stood for liberty and equality and that heritage is valuable to claim.”

The four specific areas of focus of the festival that begins Friday and ends Monday will be the Emancipation Declaration, Leadership of Lincoln, Underground Railroad and southern Ohio’s role in the abolitionist movement.

The Emancipation needs to be examined as the Constitution was. It is not as profound, but the impact had similar ramifications,” Lucas said. “It brings freedom, which brings us to Lincoln as younger man and the country when men and women of intelligence decided slavery was not proper, injustice and indignant and decided to stand against it no matter the cost.”

Lucas pointed out the importance of the Ohio River as the landmark for freedom.

“This river was the destination,” he said. “They ran barefoot, ate herbs and outran dogs. To applaud such courage would only be correct.”

Participants will learn through presentations, lectures, readings and impersonators.

“When students are immersed the messages are more powerful and meaningful,” Tom Suter, Freedom Festival committee member and interim director of art program at OUS, said. “ It has an emotional connection and it lasts.”

Suter said the festival was made possible through the efforts of everyone.

“As a university, this is a hallmark,” he said. “This is the first time all we had a truly interdisciplinary teaching. For example, the nursing school will teach about health care during slavery.”

The festival is important because it allows people to recognize the importance of freedom and equality in the world and the sacrifices made to have both, Suter said.

He also said the festival will help to strengthen the relationship between the university and the community.

Events include the reading of the emancipation by President Lincoln on the courthouse steps, a re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debate, Reverend Rankin denouncing slavery, a presentation from Sojourner Truth and more.

“Its like reliving history,” Dave Surgalski, a Freedom Festival committee member, said.

All of the events are open to the public and free. Anyone with questions should contact Bob Leith (740) 532-8991; Steve Call (740) 533-4559; Tom Suter (740) 533-4637; Dave Surgalski (740) 533-4617.