Discover Life as a Runaway Slave
By Candyce H. Stapen
Discover what it feels like to risk your life for freedom as a runaway slave by signing-up for “Follow the North Star.” The realistic immersion program available at Conner Prairie, a living history museum outside of Indianapolis, IN, drops you into situations that runaways experienced as they traveled the Underground Railroad in the Midwest in the 1830s.
The name --Follow the North Star-- comes from the advice given to slaves fleeing the South.
The program also creates powerful opportunities to ponder important issues such as is it okay to break the law if the law proves morally wrong and would you endanger the ones you love to help others? These are questions faced by the “characters” the runaways meet.
As the program begins, you make your way downhill in the darkness, guided only by lantern light. Along the escape route, you encounter people typical of the era, including helpful Quakers and transplanted Southern bigots as you try to evade the bounty hunters.
A reluctant farmer gives you directions and a free black family hands you a map. Still, slave traders jump out of the woods and grab some participants, shouting, “Get down on your knees and stay quiet if you know what’s good for you.” Other runaways make it to freedom.
Follow the North Star provides a powerful lesson. The program, offered in spring and fall, is available to adults as well as to parents with children ages 12 and older.
For less intense time travel, tour Conner Prairie’s historic areas. At the 1816 Lenape Indian Camp, strike a deal with fur traders and, depending on the day, help craft a dugout canoe, work a hide into soft buckskin or hear tales of the natives who lived in the region centuries ago.
In Prairietown, an 1836 village, learn to use a bellows at the Smithy’s, watch jugs being made at the potters’, or chat with the doctor. Stoll Liberty Corner, circa 1886 and chat with Mrs. Zimmerman and find out about the farm. At the Conner Homestead, kids can dip candles, card wool and pet lambs and other baby animals. .
Conner Prairie is located in Fishers, IN, about six miles from Indianapolis. Reserve the special programs in advance.