GHF’s African American Heritage Committee will present “The Making of the Underground Railroad” on Wednesday, June 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the historic 1838 Menard House and Grounds, 1605 33rd Street. This program will feature musical performances, presentations on key figures of the Underground Railroad and a coded quilts exhibit. Students aged 6 through 18 are welcomed for free and must be accompanied by an adult chaperone. Space is limited and reservations are required by calling Jami Durham at 409-765-3453 or emailing jami.durham@galvestonhistory.org. Sack lunches at the Menard Complex grounds are welcomed after the program concludes.

The event will start with a performance by Mrs. Sherman Batiste Boyer, Director of Music at Saint Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church and the musician at Market Street Baptist Church.

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD HIGHLIGHTS

Coded Quilts

Before, and during, the American Civil War, messages in the form of quilt patterns helped communicate with fugitive slaves trying to escape the bonds of captivity. Because most slaves were unable to read or write, the quilt patterns guided them to safe shelter, or warned them of danger, as they made their way along the Underground Railroad to freedom.

Presentation of William Menard Thomas

William Menard Thomas was a descendant of slaves owned by Galveston’s founder, Michel Brananour Menard. Born and raised in Galveston, Thomas became a police officer in 1918, rising to the rank of sergeant by 1922. He was active in his church, Avenue L Baptist Church, where a window named in his honor remains today.

Other Characters Portrayed Include

Harriet Tubman – Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman helped more than seventy slave families find their way to freedom using  the network of abolitionists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

Richard Nelson – Richard Nelson was an African American newspaper publisher and political leader. He moved to Galveston in 1866 where he was elected Galveston County Justice of the Peace in1870. In 1873, Nelson established the Galveston Spectator, the first newspaper in Texas to be owned, edited and published by a black man.

Lavenia Bell – Lavenia Bell was a fugitive from slavery who trekked from a Texas plantation to Rouses Point, New York, in search of freedom in Canada. Bell was born free in Washington, but as a baby she was stolen by slave owner, Tom Watson, and taken to Texas. She attempted to escape many times and failed twice before following the North Star to New York.

For more information, contact Jami Durham at 409-765-3453 or jami.durham@galvestonhistory.org.

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