Not just any walk in the park

Heads down! Eyes down! Participants in Lorain County Metro Parks “Road to Freedom” take on the roles of runaway slaves in a simulation that models the terrorizing plight of those who attempted to flee slavery.

Friend of a friend – Participants are told to run for their lives as they make a break from a whip-wielding overseer. Here the group encounters an abolitionist and freed man who will help them as they make their way north into Ohio. Runaways learn code words to recognize friends from foes. Friends are introduced as a “friend of a friend.”

Burrell House in Sheffield Village served as a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Here, actors portraying the Burrell brothers lead a group one step closer to Canada, or “Heaven,” as it was known in those days because it did not permit slavery.

Please, don’t report us – During pre-Civil War America, neighbors were at odds over sheltering runaway slaves targeted by the Fugitive Slave Law. Members of Sheffield Village’s Burrell family were not only abolitionists, but served with the Underground Railroad. Not all their neighbors approved of their efforts. (Press photos- Michele Murphy)

Sheffield Village

by Michele Murphy

Lorain County Metro Parks recently held its annual Road to Freedom program at French Creek Reservation. Conducted annually each spring, weather permitting, the park invites the public and school groups to participate in a simulation depicting both the plight and flight of runaway slaves in pre-Civil War America. Participants assume the roles of runaway slaves and alternately walk or run through a scripted program that wends through the park to the famed Burrell House, a stop on the storied Underground Railroad. Along the way, participants encounter friends and foes alike and make decisions about how – or if – they progress along the road to freedom.

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