Highlands Museum to host Underground Railroad presentation Thursday

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ASHLAND, Ky.— As part of honoring Black History Month, the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center is hosting a free Underground Railroad presentation by local historian Chris Saunders.

Saunders, who has been studying the Civil War Era for the past 16 years, will speak about the history of the Underground Railroad in the Burlington and Ironton areas of Lawrence County. He also previously assisted with the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” in April of 2012, which featured R&B singer John Legend, who is a direct descendant to freed slaves who settled in Burlington.

“I’ll be talking about people, all from Lawrence County, that were involved with the Underground Railroad in any way, shape or form,” Saunders said. “All of my information is either primary or secondary source material.”

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Some of the topics Saunders said he will cover during the presentation are escape routes that were used, conductors who owned land, different figures of speech from the time that are still used today, slave catchers, the Burlington 37 and being a part of the longest fugitive slave case in U.S. history.

Saunders said he will also have a few artifacts with him.

“I’ve identified and documented 55 Underground Railroad conductors from Burlington and Ironton,” Saunders said. “And one slave catcher that I’ve identified from West Virginia.”

The hour-long event is free and will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.

“The Highlands Museum is always excited to present programs that engage our community,” Emily Roush, education and marketing director at the museum, said. “We were thrilled that Chris Saunders reached out to us about presenting at the museum when he heard we had an exhibit on the Underground Railroad.”

For those interested in learning about the Underground Railroad in this area more in depth, Saunders is scheduled to teach a community class on the subject each Tuesday in March from 6-8 p.m. at Ohio University Southern. The cost to enter the class is $35 and those interested should contact Nina Queen to pre-register at 740-533-4548 or by email at queen@ohio.edu.