Gary Jenkins' New Documentary Brings to Life Stories of the Western Underground Railroad
January 26, 2012
In the years leading up to and during the Civil War, the Underground Railroad along the Kansas-Missouri border was busy taking runaway slaves to freedom in the north.
But the Western version of the Underground Railroad was different from that of the more famous Eastern route in that freedom seekers had to cross 500 miles of sparsely-populated prairie to reach safety. Their stories are explored when the Kansas City Public Library screens Freedom Seekers: Stories from the Western Underground Railroad on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
Director Gary Jenkins - a local attorney whose previous films include a documentary on the Kansas City Free Health Clinic and "Negroes to Hire" about slavery in Missouri - employs archival images, local experts, and dramatic readings from documents left by Underground Railroad "conductors" to bring to life the dramatic escapes and desperate flights north of freedom-seeking slaves.
The 45-minute film is followed by a panel discussion. Sharing the stage with Jenkins will be two regional experts on the Underground Railroad:
Jimmy S. Johnson III, an instructor at Hogan Preparatory High School, discusses the flight of his great-grandfather from a Platte County slave farm, across the Missouri River to the black settlement of Quindaro.
William O. Wagnon, a professor at Washburn University, has worked to preserve Topeka's historic Ritchie House, once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the garage adjacent to the Library.
Major funding for programs at the Kansas City Public Library is provided by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.