Underground Railroad Tourism Initiative Launches with Public Gathering: Multiple Sites in the Tri-State to be Listed with the National Park Service
Shawnee State University will host a public gathering on local Underground Railroad history in the Tri-State region of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia on Monday, Apr. 24, at 10:30 a.m. The program will be co-sponsored by the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and will mark the start of a three-year, tri-state historical marker and tourism initiative, which has been funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Grant program.
The public program will provide an overview of the Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative, which is being led by the Lawrence Economic Development Corp. (LEDC), with partners in five Ohio, two Kentucky, and two West Virginian counties.
The public is invited. “We want those that are interested in regional history to attend,” explained Marty Conley, Director of the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “If you are a teacher, local historian, museum or historical society member, please try to attend one of these gatherings. We need to hear from the voices of the community to preserve the local historical sites for future generations.” Local and county leaders, as well as economic and tourism officials are encouraged to attend to understand the importance of local history and the impact it has on an area’s economy, culture and quality of life.
Dr. Andrew Feight, the Director of the Center for Public History at Shawnee State University and Dr. Cicero M. Fain III, Assistant Provost for Inclusive Excellence at Marshall University and author of Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story, will direct the research and community outreach involved in identifying, researching, and nominating Underground Railroad historical sites to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
“The tri-state region has a rich and dramatic history of Underground Railroad activity,” explained Dr. Feight. “With the Ohio River running through the region, having once separated the slaveholding states of Kentucky and West Virginia from the free state of Ohio, this local history reminds us that American history happened right here.”
National Park Service officials will discuss the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program and how it has helped other American communities with their economic development and tourism efforts.
“The identification, documentation, and preservation of previously unknown sites on the Underground Railroad,” explained Dr. Fain, “is not only fundamental to chronicling an important chapter of the unwritten history of the region but critical to the development of a diversified cultural heritage tourism industry in the region and state.”
For more information on the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative for the Tri-State Region contact Marty Conley at LEDC ([email protected] or 740-377-4550), Andrew Feight at Shawnee State University ([email protected] or 740-351-3143), or Cicero Fain at Marshall University ([email protected] or 304-696-2721).