It is hard to explain to a seven year old what the Underground Railroad was, especially in a way simple enough that the child can then explain it to someone else. In hopes of finding help, we took a field trip.
Belmont Mansion was built in 1745 on a country rise overlooking Philadelphia. Like any notable place of that age its guest list includes George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison. It also housed others whose names were never logged. They were escaped slaves.
It is an odd thing to accompany a child who walks into a room filled with the written testimonies of slavery’s horrors from those who lived it, which are ignored by the little person, who exclaims “cool” as she sees a row of model ships. She doesn’t say “cool” when she notices the old illustration of a Black woman hung by her ankle being beaten by someone who looks like George Washington.
Stories of horrors past are easy to retell to kids. They understand “good guys” and “bad guys.” It is harder for her to understand that “good guys” like George Washington can do bad things like own another person.
But it really happened so she and I, and we, need to have that conversation. Learning is good. Learning truth is even better. Learning by visiting places where things really happened is lucky.