I’ve never experienced it. That overwhelming urgency to be free to the point of being willing to risk death to achieve it. The closest I can remember is during my high school days when I desperately wanted to go off to college and escape the rules and domination of my parents. And that is a pitiful excuse for a comparison. After all, my physical needs were generously met, and my parents made sacrifices to help me reach my goals and dreams. No, I’ve never known a hunger for freedom so deep that it caused me to take drastic actions and beg others to help me along my way.
I THOUGHT I knew what I’d be seeing when Steve and I visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati this past spring. I studied the Civil War during elementary and high school years. I had a rudimentary knowledge of what the Underground Railroad was and how it worked. But, at this amazing facility I had the chance to see some of the details more graphically. It was intense and powerful. The Ohio River Valley area was a major location when the Underground Railroad was in operation. Now, at 50 East Freedom Way, along the banks of the Ohio River is a multi-million-dollar building designed specifically to educate others about the journeys some endured to find freedom.
Three large pavilions make up the first and second floors of the building — The Pavilion of Perseverance, the Pavilion of Courage, and the Pavilion of Cooperation. In the Perseverance section was an authentic slave pen which housed slaves on their way to be auctioned and sold. It was found on a farm in Kentucky less than 60 miles from the Freedom Center.
Two large RagGonNons created by Aminah Robinson dominated another wall. These quilt-type wall hangings took her 35 years to complete and tell the story of slavery and freedom from her own perspective. Many materials are used in these hangings, and Ms. Robinson did all of the drawing, painting, quilting and sewing by hand.
In another display, part of a house was used to show the places that slaves were hidden on the journey north after they escaped the plantations of the south.
A traveling exhibit on Nelson Mandela was being shown during the days we were there. Again, I have to plead ignorance. I didn’t understand what Apartheid really meant, and I’m ashamed of myself for not being better educated about it. The blacks in South Africa were treated terribly. Mandela’s raised fist had such passion and meaning. The questions he asked stirred my heart. “Lay down your rock. Lift up your fist. What will you forgive? What will you fight for?” Such a powerful message for his people.
If you have a chance to go to Cincinnati, I would highly recommend that you plan to spend a few hours at the Freedom Center. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you can’t go that far, then consider a drive to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Ignorance is no excuse. Freedom is a cause all Christians should champion.
John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
1 Peter 2:16 “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”