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National Underground Railroad Conference - July 28-31, 2010

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National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program

Topeka to Host 4th Annual National Underground Railroad Conference - July 28-31, 2010

As the
United States expanded westward, the Kansas Territory became a key battleground between free states and slave states over the issue of slavery.   Amidst this tense sectional conflict, the plight of enslaved individuals became a dramatic opportunity in the fight for freedom.  Prior to the Civil War, antislavery settlers along the Kansas-Missouri border and other “Free Staters” operated the Underground Railroad.   Diane Miller, National Program manager of the National Park Service (NPS) National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program  said, “The conference will shed light on how the Underground Railroad in the West influenced the national and territorial struggle to bring Kansas into the Union—whether slave or free.  Through exploration of these local histories, conference participants will make connections to a larger national story with global significance.” 


The conference will take place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka.   The public is invited to a pre-conference screening of Negroes for Hire, a documentary about slavery in Missouri which will take place at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library on July 27, 2010 at 7:00 pm.   Film directors Gary Jenkins, J.D. and Jimmy Johnson PhD, will discuss the film in the context of their slave/slaveholder frontier settler families.   The public may register for pre and post conference tours which will give participants an opportunity to visit Underground Railroad sites throughout eastern Kansas.  Conference registrants are invited to an opening reception at the Kansas Historical Society recognizing efforts to preserve Underground Railroad history and heritage such as the newly signed Kansas legislation designating a portion of Highway 75 the "Lane Freedom Trail."  The conference exhibit hall at the Capital Plaza will showcase Underground Railroad history and commemorative efforts from across the country, art projects depicting stories of the Underground Railroad created by Topeka area Freedom School students, and conference related materials which will be available for purchase.


The annual conference is sponsored by the Network to Freedom.   Through shared leadership with local, state, and federal entities, as well as interested individuals and organizations, the Network to Freedom promotes the preservation and interpretation of resources associated with the Underground Railroad community.  Conference planning was undertaken by the Kansas Network to Freedom Program and a nation-wide planning committee that worked together with cosponsors of this year’s conference.  Event hosts include: Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Visit Topeka, Inc., Kansas Historical Society, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Brown Foundation, and the Organization of American Historians.  Previous conferences have been held in Georgetown, KY; Philadelphia, PA; and Indianapolis, IN.  To register for the conference and for detailed information about conference events, tours, and hotel information visit

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Major Battles of the Civil War