Underground Railroad Exhibit Examines History of Anti-Racism



An exhibit and lecture on the archaeology of the Underground Railroad in Southwest Michigan will be presented at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum on Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m. The lecture, titled “Working Together to Achieve Justice Through the Underground Railroad in Southwest Michigan,” examines the history of anti-racism dating back to the 19th century. The related exhibit will be displayed at the museum from Sept. 1 to Oct 31.

One of the most horrific institutions that perpetuated racism was slavery. Research on the Underground Railroad shows how people resisted captivity and the role that whites and people of color played in challenging slavery, often at great personal and economic risk. The exhibit and lecture provide vivid historical examples of the ways in which people can bond together to seek justice and effect change.

The programs were inspired by historical and archaeological investigations conducted in Cass County in search of material evidence of the community of Ramptown. Known only through oral histories, Ramptown referred to the people of African ancestry who defied their enslavers and escaped bondage in the American South to settle, albeit temporarily, alongside Quakers and free blacks in the agricultural fields surrounding Vandalia. Artifacts, documents, and local stories are recounted to demonstrate that people worked across the color line to challenge the racialized hierarchy and laws that denied large segments of the population basic human rights.

The program is meant to inspire contemporary anti-racists who challenge inequities wherever they may appear in an effort to create a more diverse and inclusive society and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. This program relates to the theme "Seeding the Dream" of this year's WMU celebration of the life and works of MLK by demonstrating how small acts grew to become defiant strategies when practiced collectively.

The exhibit and lecture are supported by the Western Michigan University Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is operated by Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is governed by its Board of Trustees. Admission to the Museum is free.

The museum is located at 203 N. Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo.