SOLES Goes to Philadelphia!

Group of students on the Philadelphia Trip
begin quote“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger. ” - Harriet Tubman

April 28 - 31, 2018

We left behind New Orleans with a sense of hope. We had faced the cruelty of the white man and the determination of the black man in our discovery of the southern city and now we're entering the territory of “freedom.” There were conflicting emotions as we hopped a plane for the city of brotherly love. Would we find a city of love or would we find a city pretending to love? What did our history create? Was it truth or false hopes?

To prepare for our arrival, we read “The Rains” by Sulayman Clark. The story follows real people and events that occurred in the city of antebellum Philadelphia. It includes the abolitionist movement and connects with the events and people of the Underground Railroad. After reading the novel, I wondered if Philadelphia would pay tribute to the lives I read about in this novel, and my curiosity was rewarded with proof of their existence in the city.

On our first day, we had the opportunity to visit some historical landmarks. We visited the historical site of a Quaker school and the farm that once belonged to Eusebius Barnard. Barnard and his family were part of the Underground Railroad and at great risk to their lives, helped slaves move into the land of freedom. It was a nice change from the pain we felt when visiting New Orleans. We found something bigger than ourselves, something words cannot even begin to describe. The closest I can come to is “deliverance, duty, and freedom.”

Barnard House

Our day wasn’t over just yet! We found our way into the heart of Philadelphia and stopped at the Mother Bethal African Methodist Episcopal Church to learn about its origins and lasting survival throughout the centuries. From here, we got lost in the city of brotherly love. With a map in hand, we set off on a scavenger hunt to locate key places that appeared in “The Rains” as well as places that are essential to the development of the great city. We visited places like The Liberty Bell and The President’s House, the port where slaves were dropped off for sale as well as a location that was once a place where they would sell slaves, but not before dressing them up in beautiful suits and nice dresses. And no, the Rocky Statue was not on the list!

Mother Bethal African Methodist Episcopal Church

Liberty Bell

Our second day was exhausting, but that may have been from all the walking we did the day before. We rose early to catch the bus to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad museum. We spent our morning walking through her history, exploring her life and her strength. The images and sayings on the wall were profound. And just to make it a little more fun, our whole group are now honorary Junior Rangers for the national park. Can’t beat that!

Harriet Tubman Visitor Center

Harriet Tubman Visitor Center

Students in the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center

Students at the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center

We continued on our journey and followed the path of the Harriet Tubman possibly took. Below are some of the locations we visited:

The Webb Cabin

Students in a trap door in the Webb Cabin

The Webb Cabin with a preserved hiding spot for slaves.

The William Still Interpretive Center (Unfortunately closed on our visit)

William Still Interpretive Center

Jacob and Hannah Leverton Home (But it was on private property and no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t get to it.)

The following day, we said goodbye to each other. Some flew home while others ventured into different states. Some went to New York, some went to Massachusetts, and this lone writer? Well, I found my way to Gettysburg. I think we all left with deep feelings about our adventure and will be better teachers and counselors because of it. We can’t begin to explain our newfound courage and experiences. I can only tell you that you must follow the same journey and experience the changes for yourself.

Group of students from the Philadelphia Trip

Until next time my friends!

Shannon Clark

2018 Graduate of SOLES 

Photos provided by Shannon Clark, Viet Mai, and Dr. Kristopher Hall


Corinna Lewis


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