“On the Path to Freedom,”was a community heritage program commemorating Territorial Kansans involvement in the Underground Railroad. The two day program in Topeka, July 25 and 26, 2008, focused on an article Rev Lewis Bodwell, Topeka Congregational Church, published on his escorting a family of fugitive slaves in 1858 from the Landmark Ritchie House in Topeka to southwest Iowa for transmission along the Underground Railroad.

On the Path to Freedom, program coverJuly 25, 2008
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
7:00 PM
Reception courtesy of Security Benefit
Exhibiting the Underground Railroad

Stephen MarcPhotography of Stephen Marc, Arizona State University
Historically Mapping the Paths to Freedom

Stephen Marc is a Professor of Art at Arizona State University,
whose work as a photographer/digital montage artist addresses
the African Diaspora. Since 2000, Marc has traveled to over
30 states and Ontario, Canada to visit Underground Railroad
sites, Antebellum plantations, and to research slavery related materials. As a result of these experiences, he has created two types of images. The first is documentations of individual UGRR sites incorporating several views, often inside/out, in order to provide an interpretative tour. The second type is constructed narrative montage that address the larger scope of slavery by weaving together historical locations, documents, and artifacts, with pertinent contemporary cultural references.
    The book of this work, Passage on the Underground Railroad, is being published by the University Press of Mississippi with a scheduled release in Fall 2008.
Spencer Crew

Lecture by Spencer Crew, George Mason University

Spencer R. Crew is a Professor of American, African
American, and Public History at George Mason University.
    Spencer Crew has worked in public history institutions for more than twenty-five years. He served as president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for six years and worked at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution for twenty years. Nine of those years he served as the director of NMAH. At each of those institutions he sought to make history accessible to the public through innovative and inclusive exhibitions and public programs.
    His most important exhibition was the ground breaking
“Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915 – 1940”
which generated a national discussion about migration, race, and creating historical exhibitions. He also co-curated “The American Presidency A Glorious Burden” which is one of the Smithsonian’s most popular exhibitions. Crew has published extensively in the areas of African American and Public History.
    Crew is an active member of the academic and cultural communities, serving on many boards that work to generate enthusiasm for history among the general public. He is the past chair of the National Council for History Education and serves on the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation as well as the Board of the American Association of Museums.
    He graduated from Brown University and holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Rutgers University. In 2003 he was inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
    Professor Crew’s participation is as the 2008 Washburn University Gleed Lecturer.

July 26, 2008

5:00 PM
Traveling Freedom’s Pathway

National Park Service Ranger Heritage Walk from the Landmark Ritchie House
Lecompton Reenactors
Transportation provided by Brewster Place, Atria Hearthstone and Lexington Park
Music from the Kaw Valley Cornet Band, Rick Baker director
Picnic provided by Walmart, HyVee and Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri

Registration, outside Brown v Board National Historic Site

Select a photo to see the larger version—

Sign In & Hop Aboard the Bus to Ritchie House

Lawn tents and Kaw Valley Cornet Band Brown v Board Park Ranger hosts aboard bus to Ritchie House Fellow bus passengers
Cold water offered along the path Junior Ranger from Paola shares his work Betty Bomar and Ralph Skoog, Shawnee County Historical Society members, greet guests Robin Shrimplin, Ritchie House education coordinator Ritchie House youth activities tent
John Ritchie home historical site Ritchie House Tour
Bill Wagnon, event organizer, greets guests at Ritchie home Bill Wagnon at the microphone Local media attention
Mrs. Stroud greets guests Herschel Stroud greets guest Herschel Stroud Guests greeted at the door of Ritchie home Arriving from the bus trip
Ascending steps into Rithcie home Guests enjoy Ritchie exhibits More Ritchie exhibits Door between interior rooms
Chelsey enjoys visiting the Ritchie home Doug Wallace, Shawnee County Historical Society BULLETIN editor, sells BULLETINS onsite Rick Friedstrom, Ritchie Project committee, speaks with the media Two guests leave Ritchie home onlong the Path to Freedom

Voices From the Past
First territorial governor, Andrew Reeder, speaks with travelers along the path Andrew Reeder, Territorial Governor Guests stop to listen to Gov. Reeder's point of view Walking the Path to Freedom

Guests stop to talk with Abolutionist Jim Lane Jim Lane Jim Lane and _______ ________
Park Ranger walks path with guests The Reverend Johnson, ME missionary to Shawnee Indians Rev. and Mrs. Johnson and ___________ Guests get a pro-slavery viewpoint
Mrs. Johnson supports slavery, and human treatment of slaves Mrs. _______ Park Ranger speaks with guests along the path Worn sign along the path Nearing last stop along the path
Radical Abolisiontists support the radial proactive views of John Brown Cannon means business ___________ ___________ Guests get the radical pro-active view of Abolition
Young history lover plays Ritchie card game Relax, Eat, Listen & Play
Ritchie cards are to be matched. John Brown is showing. Word puzzle and Crayons A mother watches her daughter play and learn Park Ranger on Brown v Board National Historic Site
Local Girl Scouts help serve hot dogs A light supper is provided to guests Buffet line Reenactors eat supper with guests
Kaw Valley Cornet Band performs Kaw Valley Cornet Band entertains guests More band music
Clouds gather as outdoor events come to a close Guests relax and listen to the Kaw Valley Cornet Band perform Ritchie Project committee member Rick Friedstrom Band members take a break

Bruce Mactavish helps set up for evening indoor activities Indoors Before the Storm
Storm clouds darken Storm clouds sprinkle as stragglers go indoors Brown v Board National Historic Site at dusk
Mercer dad, brother, Chloe and Marianna. Girls have researched and written a book about the local Underground Railway. Family enjoys photo collages on exhibit by Stephen Marc. Historical site gift shop Collage work by guest artist, Stephen Marc

Lewis Bodwell discusses his assistance in taking a slave family north from Topeka along the Lane Trail6:30 PM

Pursuing Freedom from Slavery
Dramatization of Lewis Bodwell’s account
of escorting a slave family to freedom

Allen Jones as Lewis Bodwell
Niashia Baker as Fanny
Anne Hawkins as Mary Jane Ritchie

Allen Jones as Lewis Bodwell

Allen Jones portrays Lewis Bodwell and has been involved in reenacting and historical characterization for over twenty years with primary interest in Kansas history and the American Civil War. Born and reared in east Texas, he attended the University of Houston to study Radio and Television Production, ultimately graduating from Texarkana College, Centenary College of Louisiana, and Saint Paul School of Theology, Methodist, in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Allen has presented first person impressions of the Reverend Abram Ryan, a Catholic priest considered to be the “Poet Laureate of the Confederacy,” Captain A.J. Huntoon, surgeon and Topeka pioneer, and Frye Giles, one of Topeka’s founders.
    Recently retired from 32 years of Kansas state service, Allen and wife Sharon enjoy reading, traveling and discovering small towns and wonderful museums. They are proud members of the Kansas State Historical Society and the Lecompton Reenactors, among other fraternal and community organizations.Nisahia Baker

Niashia Baker portrays Fanny. Niashia is the youngest of eleven children and a native of Topeka. She is active in the community as an Americorp Bonner Leader, and has participated in alternative spring break work in California, Louisiana and Wyoming for the past three years. This July she will travel to Managua, Nicaragua to do two weeks of humanitarian work.
    She graduated from Washburn University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Anthropology and is expected to graduate with Master of Liberal Arts in December. She currently works as a professional at Capital City School and plans to become a special education teacher. Anne Hawkins as Mary Jane Ritchie

Anne Hawkins
portrays Mary Jane Ritchie. A native Kansan, Anne has a masters degree in history from the University of Kansas. She taught U.S. history at Washburn University, youth summer classes at the Kansas Museum of History, and a variety of enrichment sessions for Lawrence virtual school students in northeast Kansas. She worked several years for the Kansas State Historical Society, served as co-coordinator for the Kansas History Day state program for grades 5-12, judged at National History Day, and published several articles on state history in Kansas Kaleidoscope magazine.
     Her historical study of black Kansans in agriculture appeared in Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains. Anne has presented a number of historical programs and scholarly papers throughout the midwest. She is a member of the Kansas Alliance of Professional Historic Performers.

Reflections on Freedom
Audience engagement with humanities scholars
Supported by the Kansas Humanities Council
Bruce Mactavish, Washburn University facilitator
Spencer Crew, George Mason University
S. Charles Bolton, University of Arkansas, Little Rock
Rita Napier, University of Kansas

Some attendeesPanel and moderator, bios listed below.

Bruce D. Mactavish


Bruce D. Mactavish is a member of the history faculty at
Washburn University. Additionally he serves as Associate
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and directs
Washburn’s Center for Diversity Studies. Dr. Mactavish
earned his PhD from the University of Mississippi.
At Washburn he teaches Kansas History, African American
History, Race and Ethnicity in America, Civil War America,
and the Market Revolution. His current research includes
a cultural study of black Mississippians who fought to end
slavery as members of the 55th and 59th Regiments of the
United States Colored Infantry.
Dr. Mactavish and his wife, Dr. Margaret Hawthorne, along
with four horses, one cow, four dogs, and two cats live
along the Santa Fe Trail in rural Osage County where they
raise gourds and sunflowers.S. Charles Bolton

S. Charles Bolton is chair of the Department of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he teaches courses on early America and U.S. religious history.
    He is the author of a book on colonial Anglicanism in the South and several on territorial and antebellum Arkansas. He recently has completed a study of runaway slaves in Arkansas for the National Park Service and is working on a book dealing with the same subject in the trans-Mississippi
west as a whole.

Rita Napier

Rita Napier is Associate Professor of History and affiliated faculty, Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas. She received her PhD from the American University in 1976. Dr. Napier is the author of Kansas and the West: New Perspectives and numerous articles in Native American History and the history of bleeding Kansas.
    She is currently working on a book on the development of the free state movement in bleeding Kansas. Her teaching specialtiesSpencer R. Crew include history of plains Indians, the American West, and Kansas.

Spencer R. Crew is a Professor of American, African American, and Public History at George Mason University.
Read his bio, above.


Brown v Board National Historic Site
Capitol dome as seen from Brown v Board National Historic Site

A pertinent reading list about this historic event includes:

  • Bodwell's account of the events of July 11-August 5, 1858 —on this site, in PDF format, 5 pages.
  • Richard B. Sheridan, Freedom's Crucible: The Underground Railroad in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas, 1854-1865 .
  • Larry Gara, The Liberty Line:The Legend of the Undeground Railroad
  • John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation
  • Fergus M. Brodewich, Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the
    Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement .
  • Wilbur H. Siebert, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom




On the Path to Freedom was jointly sponsored by the National Park Service’s Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, the Brown Foundation, the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn, the Center for Diversity at Washburn, and the Washburn History Department’s endowed Gleed Lectureship.

Kansas Humanities Council

The Historic Ritchie House

Read "Underground Railroad trip recalled" in the Topeka Capital-Journal, 7/24/2008






On the Path to Freedom