Wyandotte County Museum opens Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad

Wyandotte County Historical Museum News Release

David Hartman, Museum Curator
Wyandotte County Historical Museum
(913) 573-5008

Wyandotte County Historical Museum opens photo exhibition 
Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad 

They left during the middle of the night—often carrying little more than the knowledge that moss grows on the north side of trees. An estimated 100,000 slaves between 1830 and the end of the Civil War in 1865 chose to embark on this journey in search of freedom. They moved in constant fear of being killed or recaptured, returned, and beaten as an example of what would happen to others who might choose to run. Under the cover of darkness, “fugitives” traveled roughly twenty miles each night traversing rugged terrain while enduring all the hardships that Mother Nature could bring to bear. Occasionally, they were guided from one secret, safe location to the next by an ever-changing, clandestine group known as the Underground Railroad. Many consider the Underground Railroad to be the first great freedom movement in the Americas and the first time when people of different races and faiths worked together in harmony for freedom and justice. Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad opens September 1, 2017, at Wyandotte County Historical Museum.

Photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales has spent more than a decade meticulously researching “fugitive” slaves and the ways they escaped to freedom. While the unnumbered routes of the Underground Railroad encompassed countless square miles, the path Michna-Bales documented encompasses roughly 2,000 miles and is based off of actual sites, cities, and places that freedom-seekers passed through during their journey.

Whether they were slaves trying to escape or free blacks and whites trying to help, both sides risked everything for the cause of freedom. From the cotton plantations south of Natchitoches, Louisiana, all the way north to the Canadian border, this series of photographs by Michna-Bales helps us imagine what the long road to freedom may have looked like as seen through the eyes of one of those who made this epic journey.

While many books have been written on the subject, there is very little visual documentation of the Underground Railroad because of its secretive nature. Today, as America becomes more and more diverse, Michna-Bales believes that an understanding of the experience—and those who lived through it—is more relevant than ever. The Underground Railroad united people from different races, genders, social levels, religions, and regions in a common and worthwhile cause. It was the first civil rights  movement within America. Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad encourages visitors to learn more, ask questions, and open a dialogue on the subject, and in the end, provide a better understanding of our origins.

This exhibition features beautifully dramatic color photographs, ephemera, and narratives that together tell the story of the Underground Railroad. The author is working with Princeton Architectural Press to prepare a publication that will combine eighty-two original photographs and text with a diverse sampling of related ephemera.

Exhibition: Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad
Host Organization: Wyandotte County Historical Museum
Runs: September 1-October 10, 2017
Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m-4 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-noon
Location: 631 North 126th Street, Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012
Admission: $ FREE
Contact: David Hartman Museum Curator www.wycomuseum.org

Along with the Photographs, there will be artifacts that were preserved from an Archaeological dig at the Quindaro Ruins in Kansas City, Kansas in 1987, these artifacts have been in storage at The Kansas Historical Society in Topeka Kansas. History of the Quindaro Ruins will also be on hand. The death mask of Abraham Lincoln and one of his hand molds along with an actual slave ball and chain will be displayed along with a Cannon once used during the Civil War.

This exhibition was organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

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