A wonderful part of my afternoon recently was spent attending the mural dedication of the Convention of Colored People in South Philadelphia. While at the dedication ceremony I ran into Curtis Small from my Smith College days. He is now at the University of Delaware and was part of the library staff that worked on the research for the Convention project. I met the Director Gabrielle Foreman, a 2022 MacArthur Fellow and Amherst College graduate, and shared the moment with artist Ernel Martinez, co-founder of Amber Art and Design.
But most of all seeing the mural was so meaningful to me because of my journey tracing the Underground Railroad the last three years from Maryland to Canada. This was the geography of resistance in which many of the people highlighted in the mural worked. Bishop Richard Allen, William Still, William Whipper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, and Fredrick Douglas were like friends to me on my journey. Their stories reminded me of the importance of memories and place. “Where did the eat, where did they stay?” There’s still so much we don’t know about these change agents as they advocated for the abolition of slavery and laws to support freedmen after the civil war.