Friday, June 22, 2012

Hands On Learning About Slavery in Kansas

Earlier this week I told you about our trip to Civil War Days that was an event full of reenactments and other events dedicated to the Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War.  One of those items was The North Star Express and I have to tell you this was a very humbling experience.

The North Star Express is a museum-on-wheels.  What they do is put displays and interactive activities on a bus and then bring the "museum" to wherever you are.  This was open to everyone all day and it was absolutely free to experience it!  "This two section museum brings to life the history of slavery in Kansas with the use of hands-on interactive and audio-visual technologies."

And boy did it bring it to life!  For such a small thing, it can really have an impact on how you understand slavery!  This is especially important for Gess who I don't think gets the fact that people can treat other people in such an awful way.  That's one of the mixed blessings of having a daughter with special needs.  She seems to love and trust so openly.  I love that about her and yet it's frightening because that trust can easily be manipulated by those who seek to do harm.  Every time we have studied slavery I just don't think she gets it, however, this hands on experience has certainly helped!

The first half of the bus focused on slavery.  Here Gess is beating a drum like an African might have played.  The poster on the wall beside her shows the back of a slave badly beaten and behind her hangs the whips and chains that were used to do so.


She then got a closer look at those whips and chains.  Can you imagine being chained up like that?  Feel that whip, wouldn't it hurt your back?



The second half of the bus focused on the Underground Railroad and other ways that people helped to get slaves to freedom. At the back of the bus was a gentleman that provided a very real interactive event that gave us pause.  We were not really sure if Gess would like this one or not, but she did!  Have you ever heard of Henry "Box" Brown?  After the sale of his wife and children he decided to try to escape to freedom by mailing himself in a box to a place where slavery was illegal.  With the help of some friends he made a crate and was placed inside of it with only a skin of water and 2 biscuits!  It took about 24 hours to make the trip.  Here is a poster explaining who Henry "Box" Brown was.


 Could you imagine what it would be like to be in a crate like that for that long?  Well, OK, just think about what it would be like to be in the crate at all.  Oh wait, you don't have to wonder!  Why not see for yourself?  See this crate.  It's not empty!


I wonder what it's in it, don't you?  We asked the gentleman protecting it.  He told us it was bibles and not to worry about the crate.  He would say something similar to anyone who asked.  "This crate is not significant at all."


Then he announced that we were in Philadelphia and we could now open the crate. Wait, that doesn't look like bibles to me!


Wow!  It was a person!  Now when we ask could you imagine doing it for 24 hours it means a whole lot more.  I was impressed that Gess did it and was not even scared.  He limited the children to 2 minutes but for Gess we did it for 1.  She did great!  There were a few other interactive items and displays that shared more history.  It really was amazing and we are thankful to have experienced it.

We have since went to the library and done some more reading on slavery.  I was thrilled to have found this book!


It's a great children's book explaining the story of Henry "Box" Brown. It tells how he grew up in slavery, got married, lost his family and then mailed himself to freedom.  This book means a whole lot more now that Gess spent some time in a box too! 

1 comment:

Alicia said...

Living in Atlanta we have really enjoyed learning more about the Civil War. This museum sounds wonderful and I always love when I can combine hands on learning with what we are studying!

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