With its forests, thickets, marshes, rivers and creeks, the Eastern Shore’s natural landscape provided a passageway to freedom along the Underground Railroad for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of slaves, including abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Designated as a “Place to Visit” on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, Adkins Arboretum reflects the conditions through which slaves traveled en route to freedom, and serves as a dramatic vista to experience the little-known relationship between nature and the Underground Railroad.

With grant support from Maryland Humanities Council and Maryland Heritage Area Authority, the Arboretum will produce a stimulating, educational and thought-provoking interpretive project that explores the role of nature for those in pursuit of freedom via the Underground Railroad. The two awards, totaling $28,000, will expand the Arboretum’s capacity to tell the story and experience of the Underground Railroad and make a significant contribution to the development of the Underground Railroad Scenic Byway.

The project will include a self-guided audio tour, developed in concert with historians Anthony Cohen and Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, that will enhance participants’ understanding of the Underground Railroad and demonstrate how nature provided both obstacles and opportunities for freedom seekers. Arboretum docents and volunteers will be trained to interpret the issues of slavery and the Underground Railroad via guided walks, and participants will be engaged in a blog-based dialogue of the unique connection between the Underground Railroad and nature.

Few artifacts and buildings of the Underground Railroad remain. The Eastern Shore landscape fills this historical gap because it is the artifact that remains to evoke this history and provide an important historical context to understand what it meant to travel on the Underground Railroad. Participants will learn about the connection between preserved Chesapeake Bay landscapes and historic conditions and events, as well as the importance of preserving natural landscapes to provide a context for history.

The project will be completed by summer 2013. For more information, call 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or send e-mail to info@adkinsarboretum.org.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build the new W. Flaccus and Ruth B. Stifel Center at Arboretum Center and redesign its entrance to broaden educational offerings and public outreach initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0. For information about the Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, contact Kate Rattie at krattie@adkinsarboretum.org or 410.634.2847, ext. 33.

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