Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freedom Center: Two Images

I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person; 
now I was free.  
There was such a glory over everything.  
I felt like I was in Heaven. 
~Harriet Tubman

Recently I visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center museum.  What a wonderful place!  The exhibits are so informative and well done; many are interactive.  I found myself captivated.  There are artifacts, life size models, movies, lovely artwork, and the famous slave pen.  I was so inspired!  I can't wait to go back.   Recently installed is a new permanent exhibit, "Slavery Today."   (Yes, slavery DOES exist today and probably very close to where you live.  shocked?  Visit the museum and find out.)
Here are some shots of the slave pen, a holding building for slaves before being sold at the market.  Built in 1830 by Captain John Anderson, a Revolutionary War soldier, this 2 story building is 21' x 30' x 26' high.   Male slaves were shackled to iron rings in the floor of the second story; female slaves and children were housed on the first floor.  This is the actual, original building removed from it's Mason, Kentucky location and reassembled at the Freedom Center.

1 door, 8 small windows, 10' fireplace (where the women cooked)

"The pen is powerful.  It has the feeling of hallowed ground.  When people stand inside, they speak in whispers.  It is a sacred place.  I believe it is here to tell a story--the story of the internal slave trade to future generations."
~Carl Westmoreland, curator and senior adviser of the Freedom Center

Dark and damp, rank with odor, human waste and garbage would drop through the cracks of the upper story to the floor below.  On that upper story, men were chained two by two to a central chain by short shackles that allowed them to only sit or lie down.

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson
Journeys I and II
(textile work begun in 1968 and continuing into the present)
“In 1968, I decided to create a ‘work’ apart from other works that I created, that would rag on and on into the future.  At the same time the work would rag back and back into the past—penetrating the interior of West Afrika and the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade which had not even been imagined."
(click on the Journey images to see details)
In the photo above--the faces of slaves who traveled on the Underground Railroad.
Robinson's Journeys is a work in progress that has evolved over the years with her travels and experience.  She calls this type of art RagGonNons  because "they rag on and on."

Journeys tell very complex stories-- about her own journeys, as well as the journeys of African-Americans from the time they lived in Africa before slavery to the present. 

Brilliantly colored, heavily adorned and painted,  made from found objects such as fabric, beads, shells, buttons, leaves, bark, handmade paper, and twigs, it is laden with stories.

“A great civilization arose along the Niger river, established by the Songhai, a nation of scholars, warriors, merchant, farmers, and artisans.

The Freedom Center pays tribute to all efforts to "abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people."  Here we can see and touch and experience viscerally the entrenchment of slavery in human culture.  What you find might surprise you.  such as how widespread the African slave trade was, and not only, or even the most, in the United States.
The Freedom Center is rich with stories, with history, with human involvement that will cause you to cringe as well as leap for joy.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center website
article about the slave pen, detailing the slave trade of Anderson
Aminah's World website   Be sure to click on "create your own artwork," for a fun, printable interactive art project.
fascinating interview with Aminah Robinson
~~~~~some tidbits:
"I pray over each piece..."
home is more of an environment than a traditional residence--art is everywhere, even imbedded in the kitchen floor... 
neighbors anonymously leave fabric scraps on her porch
the Doll House 

This is a fun weekly meme, under the direction of Jenny Matlock.  This week, our letter is "F."  Come and join HERE.  Here is Ms. Matlock's   submission.Now go visit!

PLEASE NOTE:  I am adding a LINK to this blog, Katz and Other Tales, for an enlightening report on slavery and chocolate.  Yes, chocolate.

photos by me © 2010


  1. This is such an interesting and informative post. It certainly is important to remember that slavery is still an important issue even in today's world.

  2. Slavery is still a huge issue, but not one that gets the press, with all the regional wars, natural disasters etc. Great post!

  3. When we lived in Memphis, I would always take visitors to the Civil Rights Museum. It is on the site occupied by the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was murdered.

  4. Slavery exists everywhere from the sweatshops in Chinatown LA to the Iowa farm factories to kid brothels in the Philippines and the chocolate child slaves in Africa. Let's shout about it. I'll devote my Monday post to it. Everyone join in?

  5. just stopping by from miss jenny's... very informative post thanks...blessings...s..

  6. What an incredible, interesting and important place! Thank you for sharing your visit and photos!

  7. Great post! What wonderful detail & materials used in the story quilt...thanks for sharing :-)

  8. Wow...powerful.

    I am very intrigued with the fabric art you included in your post. noble work indeed.

  9. This was interesting. 'Freedom' is a good F-word. I have never heard of the Freedom Center. Great post. Very educational.

    Thank you for visting my F-post.

    Best wishes,

    For the benefit of other readers:
    Anna's Alphabe-Thursday-F

  10. Wow, that is both a sobering and inspirational 'f' post. Thank you so much for sharing that (and the visit too)

  11. "The Freedom Center is rich with stories, with history, with human involvement that will cause you to cringe as well as leap for joy."

    When I first came to your post, I dreaded reading it because of the subject. I'm glad I kept on. Thanks for your point of view on the museum and showing some photos. Robinson's work is amazing!

  12. 'Freedom's just another word...for nothing left to lose...'

    This was a great stop on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday's letter "F".

    I have always been fascinated by the Underground Railroad. It was a big part of the part of Ohio I used to live in.

    I really enjoyed reading about this and seeing the pictures.

    Such a history.

    Thank you for sharing it.


  13. Oh, man. So fascinating, and so sad, to think of the horrible existence of so many. The Journeys are beautiful. To create such beauty from so much evil and grief must have been truly cathartic.

    Thank you for sharing this sacred place with us.

  14. I think this looks like an amazing place to visit.

    I love that quilt and the story it shares. Thank you for telling us about this neat place!

  15. What a wonderful museum! Great post - thank you for sharing!


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