Pathway to Freedom: Underground Railroad Symposium

Saturday, May 21, 2022; 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The Underground Railroad refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to escape bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape: many were carefully planned, some were opportunistic. Planned efforts were often complex secret plans with assistance from others, often called conductors. Harriet Tubman is known as the most famous “conductor.” The methods and routes varied and included escape by both land and sea. These acts of self-emancipation labeled slaves as “fugitives,” “escapees,” or “runaways,” but “freedom seekers” is a more accurate description.

During each subsequent decade while slavery was legal in the United States, efforts to assist escape increased and became more refined. Through the symposium, we will deepen our understanding of this remarkable and courageous movement by those bound by a system defined by denying agency.

Join us for a day of learning as we explore the Underground Railroad, both nationally and more specifically in eastern North Carolina. The agenda includes a film presentation, academic speakers, a performance of Songs of Freedom about the Underground Railroad by the Craven Community College Choir and three panel sessions; The First Underground Railroad in North America; The Second and Last Underground Railroads, 1800 – 1865; and Legacies of America’s Underground Railroads. The keynote speaker is Dr. Timothy D. Walker, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he serves on the Executive Board of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture.

Pathway to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in North Carolina Symposium – AGENDA

7:00 am – 7:50 a.m. Registration and Breakfast

7:55am – 8:00 a.m. Beginning and Introduction of MCs: Ms. Sharon C. Bryant, African American Outreach Coordinator, Tryon Palace and Mrs. Madeline Flagler, Education Director, Tryon Palace.

8:05 a.m.- 8:10 a.m. – Posting of Colors: USCT 35th Regiment

8:15 a.m. – Greetings: Dr. Darin Waters, Deputy Secretary, NCDNCR. Welcome: Commissioner Fern Cotton. Greetings: Mr. Dana Outlaw, Mayor of New Bern. Introduction: Mr. William McCrea, Director of Tryon Palace.

8:30 a.m. – Presentation of Film: “Women of the Underground Railroad in Northeastern N.C.”

9:00 a.m. – Introduction of Keynote Speaker:  Commissioner Bernard George. Keynote Speaker: Dr. Timothy Walker, Professor of History University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth.

10:15-10:30 a.m. BREAK

10:30 – 11:45   a.m. – Session 1: The First Underground Railroad in North America

Chair: Dr. David Dennard. Panelists: Dr. Maria Hammack, University of Pennsylvania; Mrs. Leesa Jones, Retired Preschool Teacher and Co-founder of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, Washington, NC.

12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. – LUNCH

1:00- 2:15 p.m. – Session II: The Second and Last Underground Railroad, 1800-1865

Chair: Dr. Freddie Parker. Panelists: Dr. Adrienne Israel, Retired History Professor of Guilford College. Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Norfolk State University

2:15- 2:30 p.m.BREAK

2:30 – 3:00 p.m. – “Songs of Freedom and the Underground Railroad, presented by Craven Community College Gospel Choir .

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – Session III: Legacies of America’s Underground Railroads

Chair: Mrs. Monica Minus. Panelists: Dr. Tony Frazier, North Carolina Central University; Dr. Bryan Robinson, University of North Carolina Greensboro.

4:15 – 4:30 p.m. – Concluding Remarks: Mr. William McCrea                       

For more information, contact Sharon Bryant, African American Outreach Coordinator, at 252 639-3592, or

Registration is $5.00 plus tax, and includes lunch. Space is limited, so register early. Call 252 639-3524, or purchase your ticket at the North Carolina History Center ticket desk. 529 S. Front Street, New Bern.

Check in begins at 7AM and breakfast will be served.

Special thanks to the Tryon Palace African American Advisory Committee.