by Corine Beardsley, Mosely Gallery UMES
How often do you reflect on why you are somewhere? How did you get here and where did you stop along the way? Take a moment to reflect on your specific location and the ephemerality of this moment. We are made mobile by vehicles. As we commute, we whizz by stores, homes, and landscapes. We wonder, what did it feel like to be a farmer and spend most of our days looking out on the stretches of corn field that mysteriously became a horizon line, or intuitively know the undulations of a dirt road from a lifetime of walking out to work, dreaming if the big sky always felt that big on the other side of the world. Take a moment to reflect about where we came from and how it has been part of the construct of who we are and of our ancestors’ histories. Think of the stories of your neighbors and their families and how they came to be here. We are propelled to move for survival, to find sustenance, security, new prospects, or for discovery.
The town of Princess Anne and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore are enthusiastic to bring the exhibition, Journey Stories, to Mosely Gallery and the Frederick Douglass Library. These tales are a central element of our personal heritage. From Native Americans to new American citizens, regardless of ethnic or racial background, everyone has a story to tell. Our history is filled with stories of people leaving behind everything – families and possessions – to reach a new life in another state, across the continent, or even across an ocean.
The reasons behind those decisions are myriad. Many chose to move, searching for something better in a new land. Others had no choice, like enslaved Africans captured and relocated to a strange land and bravely asserting their own cultures, or like Native Americans already here, who were often pushed aside by newcomers. Our transportation history is more than trains, boats, buses, cars, wagons, and trucks. The development of transportation technology was largely inspired by the human drive for freedom.
- Journey Stories opens at UMES on October 18. Click here to find out more about opening celebration events.
The Delmarva Peninsula has a unique history because of its proximity to the Mason Dixon. A hero of the Eastern Shore is Harriet Tubman, who was responsible for leading many slaves North to freedom through the “Underground Railroad”. She has a unique and important journey story that is highlighted in the exhibit.
Tubman was born a slave on the Brodas Plantation in Bucktown, Maryland, a small hamlet on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore in Dorchester County. At this time, slave kidnapping – especially on the Eastern Shore – was in full swing. Kidnappers would abduct free blacks and escaped slaves and sell them to slave traders who would take them into the deep South to be sold on the auction block. This threat was very real to Tubman. This fear hit close to home in 1849 when the owner of the Brodas Plantation died and many of the slaves were scheduled to be sold. It was at this time that Tubman planned her escape.
Her husband had told her previously that if she attempted to escape, he would turn her in. Tubman told no one of her plans except her sister. She took on the alias “Harriet Tubman” (Harriet was her mother’s name) when she fled in 1849, making a 90 mile trip on foot through swamp, forest and field to arrive at the Mason Dixon Line.
Over the next several years, Tubman rescued her sister’s family, her brothers, and her parents. The rescues were made by what is now referred to as “the Underground Railroad” – a secret network of safe-houses that offered Tubman and her charges safety along the dangerous path to freedom between the north and south. In the course of ten years, Tubman made 19 trips on the Underground Railroad and freed more than 300 slaves. She is referred to as “The Moses of her people.”
At UMES, the Journey Stories exhibition will share these tales of movement and invite reflection on how our own personal nomadic experiences connect us with others. In the Mosely Gallery, there will be a recording station where visitors can record their stories into a national collection using the “Stories from Main Street” Ipad app. In the Frederick Douglass Library we welcome the public to our own exhibition, “International Voices: Capturing Their Journeys to UMES” which captures the stories of the University’s international student population, detailing their travels here, the challenges faced by those left behind, and what made them decide to leave home for the Eastern Shore. Cultural differences, similarities, and opportunities pushed and pulled students throughout their journey for a higher education.
UMES will also host two talks, “The Global Village in the New Millennium” with Dr. Robert Ginsberg on November 13, 2012 at 7pm at the Frederick Douglas Library, and “Freedom to Travel: When the Proper Airs of Refinement, Beautiful Clothes, and a Packed Lunch Were Just Not Enough” with Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson on Thursday, November 8th at 12:30-1:45pm in the multi-purpose room of the Student Service Center on the campus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Interim Director, Mosely Gallery
Journey Stories is on display from October 18 through November 30 where it will travel to Prince George’s County, opening December 7.