Hi, my name is Nailea Rodriguez and I just finished my first year of high school at Bronx Lab School. I came on this trip because I have been biking after school all spring and I love history. At the moment we are beginning our camping/biking trip and as I sit in the van typing this, the kids in charge of cooking are making pasta and chicken.
We took a train to Kentucky from New York yesterday and because of a delay, it took 19 hours! The first thing we did after we woke up and got ready this morning is had breakfast in the hotel café. There were many options; waffles and toppings, fruits, bagel and cream cheese, toast, croissant, and a variety of juices, coffees and teas. After we finished, we packed our things in the trailer and left. Oh, almost forgot we had to go back because we left a buttercream frosting in the fridge for Chalani’s surprise birthday party. Oh, and even more amazing we found a baby turtle in the lake; we named him Stuart. He jumped off my hand
The first stop we made today was at the Rankin house. John Rankin was an abolitionist. An abolitionist is a person who didn’t believe in slavery and worked to end it in America. John Rankin was a minister in the south but wanted to preach against slavery and couldn’t do that in the south so he moved to Ripley, Ohio and built the house at the top of the hill in order to see who was coming before they got to his front door. The Rankin house was one of the first stops on the Underground Railroad in Ohio, which was a free state just across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky. The railroad is not an actual railroad, a path or underground, its just people helping slaves escaping their masters and trying to be free by getting to Canada. In the Rankin house there lived 13 people. The oldest sons would guide the slaves to the next stop in the nighttime and would be home by sunrise. There is no evidence of the Rankin’s hiding slaves in their house; but it is to be believed that slaves stayed in the barn. In order for slaves to get up to the Rankin’s house they needed to climb up the hill and through deep woods. Back when slaves were going up there were no stairs, just rocks and a very steep hill. Now, the rocks and the steep hill are still there but stairs were added in order for the house to be visited. Later today, when we were at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, we saw a movie about a woman who the Rankin’s helped escape from slave catchers.
Our second stop was the John Parker house. John Parker was a slave who was taken from his mother when he was 8 because his father was the slave master and the master’s wife didn’t like him. When he was older, he bought his freedom from his owner. John’s owner said if he could pay what she paid for him, she would free him. She paid $800 for him and he paid her $1800, after a year he was a free man. Before he bought his own freedom he was sold off to 4 different slave owners. One of his owner’s was a doctor whose kids he became friends with. The doctor’s kids would give John books to read and he read them many times, sometimes to the point of memorization. He lived in Ripley in order to help other slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. John would go into Kentucky and extract slaves through the Ohio River. He helped hundreds of slaves escape over the years and had 7 children who all graduated from college. Oh, and inside the house there were pictures of all the Bronx Lab trips over the years.
Our last stop was the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In the 3rd floor there is a slave house in which they stored the slaves waiting to be sold. Most of the tour was based on how slaves basically built America. Although they didn’t do it because they wanted to, they still built it. The Freedom Center tells the story of how slavery started, was practiced and ended in America. Our guide, Carl Westmoreland is a historian who built the Freedom Center. He has worked with other Bronx Lab students and came to New York a few years ago when members of the Bronx Lab bike club spoke at a city council hearing about preserving and protecting an Underground Railroad house in Manhattan. He told us there was a lot of Underground Railroad activity in New York City, which I didn’t know.
After we finish dinner tonight, we are going to write in our journals about our day and have a circle discussion, which I have to lead. I am excited about the trip and looking forward to our first day of biking tomorrow.