Best Suited for Grades: 3rd-8th
Duration: 1 hour
Curriculum Connections: History, Music, Social/Personal Development
There are many stories of the Underground Railroad in communities throughout the northern United States. History, and its propensity to weave fact and fiction, has left us with images of runaway slaves making their way from one safe spot to the next through dark tunnels or under the stars, aided and abetted by well-meaning and purposefully networked White Northerners. The “Underground Railroad” surely did help freedom seekers along but it was, by and large, an unorganized system of Black people helping Black people, especially in its early years. Some stories have prized fiction over fact, while others, preserved through public record and oral history, only appear larger than life.
One such story is that of Addison White, a man whose freedom journey from Kentucky to Mechanicsburg, Ohio became one of the most famous cases in the history of the Underground Railroad. After taking refuge on the farm of a local abolitionist, White was trailed by Federal marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act. When the marshals raided the house looking to take Addison prisoner they were greeted with unexpected resistance. The townspeople of Mechanicsburg prevented Addison's arrest and drove the marshals away. The subsequent legal battle over Addison was eventually settled in a federal court, and inspired townspeople to take up a collection and buy Addison’s freedom. White went on to settle in Mechanicsburg, got married and has family still living in the area to this day.
The turbulent period of slavery and abolition in American history is the backdrop for Mad River’s one-act play with music, Freedom Flight. Centered around the telling of family history and the role of generational sharing in understanding, growth and self-worth, our play wrestles with the ongoing legacy of slavery and identity. When Evelyn, a descendant of Addison White, confronts her own difficulties with racism, an array of characters tell and relive their family history, illustrating the tension, drama and the promise of deliverance from bigotry. Freedom Flight explores the unwritten roadmap between past and present, and the relationship between the things that we leave behind and those that carry us forward.