On Thanksgiving night in 1858, two women left their Nebraska City home, and, with the help from abolitionists, Celia and Eliza traveled more than 500 miles to Chicago in search of freedom.
Arlington Nebraska High School History Teacher Barry Jurgensen learned about them when he read the book Necessary Courage by Lowell Soike in 2013, and now he has set out on foot to recreate the Journey that Celia and Eliza took. He’s walking 527 miles across Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois with three of his students in an attempt to raise awareness about modern day slavery.
“I visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and they have an exhibit called 'Invisible Slavery Today,'" explains Jurgensen.
“After visiting that exhibit, it became much more real to me, and I wanted to become an abolitionist like the people I was reading about. Everyone I knew told me to be creative, and that wasn’t much help. So, I got together with some other teachers, and they had the idea to walk across the Midwest to raise awareness through history, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Jurgensen started his journey in Nebraska City on June 1st. Later this week, he’ll be walking through central Iowa and is asking Iowans to join him on his walk. Find out more about that event, and follow his journey on his Facebook page Walk Forever Free.
During this hour on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Jurgensen. Doug Jones, archeologist for the Iowa State Historical Society, also joins the conversation. Jones says we’re finding out more and more about Iowans that helped freedom seekers along the route all the time.
“Through the efforts of all the volunteers that are doing research, we’re finding out more and more,” says Jones. “One of the things we’re learning is that there were people form the East coast who moved to Iowa to do Underground Railroad activity.”