” I remember in the 7th grade I got a call from the principal of our school, Professor Wendell White. He told me he needed to see me after school. All day I was worried. I thought he caught me doing something with his daughter. So I went into his office as soon as I got out of last period. He told me, ‘You know we are going to be integrated next year. I’m scared to death it is not going to go right and I expect you to make sure it goes well.’ During that time, I kind of ran the school. I was a jock and knew all of the kids and I knew the white kids from other schools, too. So they kind of saw me as a leader. And you know what, it went just fine. We integrated. Our principal was such a good man and was so proud. But I will never forget- he and his wife wanted to buy a house up on top of the hill just right over there. They wouldn’t let him buy it. The lenders, the real estate agents, the city… they wouldn’t have it. He had to buy a little one there down there on the side. …It broke his heart. ”
“My mom is 91 and she is really the one who should be giving you this tour. When we were little, she and my dad would teach us about slavery, about our past and about history. At the time, we’d rather have been playing ball or out chasing girls. But they’d take us to the John Parker and Rankin houses. They’d take us to the cemeteries. They’d teach us about the Underground. So when Maysville wanted to put our first underground railroad museum in a jail… we stood up and said something. The black folk around here were like, no, no, we are not putting our underground railroad museum in an old jail. There are too many modern connections for black folks there. They wanted the museum to bring in tourism- we wanted it to spread knowledge. We then got this call from a woman who had this house. She told us ‘I can still hear the shackles of the slaves at night on the concrete down there in the basement.’ Maysville was one of the worst slave cities in the U.S. back in the day, and this old house was the home of a slave owner who turned abolitionist and started working the Underground. I’ll take you to the cellar where they had a hidden place to hide the freedom seekers. The woman wanted us to have this house for our museum. We decided from the very beginning that we would not go fast- we are going to go slower. We were really careful about who we placed on our board of directors, who we took money from and how we would develop the museum. Our mission is to spread knowledge based on truth and to tell the true story about the history of our country. This museum was going to have a purpose. We’ve been around for ten years, and we hope to keep on spreading this important story. Last year we sent my parents to Canada, the ultimate destination on the Underground, as a Christmas gift. My mom said the black folks up there told them, ‘Well, we were wondering when you people were going to come up here and join us.’ It was something really special for them.”
These lawn jockey statues, both black and white men, are seen throughout the South to this day. Many barns and homes have one on their front step. While many know the lawn jockey as a derogatory symbol, these statutes were actually used as markers on the Underground Railroad throughout the south and into Canada. Green ribbons were tied to the arms of the statue to indicate safety, and red ribbons meant to keep going.
In areas that were historically main routes for the Underground Railroad,many private barns, homes and tool sheds bear these quilt pieces. Whether or not they are put up by their owners as symbols of solidarity to the cause, or simply as stylish fixtures, they are a remnants of the quilts created to indicate maps and routes for freedom seekers heading North for Canada and freedom. Many homes in these areas also have maintained the tradition of leaving candles in the windows in the evenings. These glimmers of lights during the nighttime were another symbol indicating safe passage.