On March 20, while students in grades 9-11 were taking their annual round of standardized tests, McNick’s senior class traveled to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the second Annual Senior Day Trip to experience the museum through a guided tour, a discussion on implicit bias, and insight on modern slavery. The visit gave students the opportunity to expand their knowledge on the history of slavery and to humanize all people experiencing slavery, in the past and present.
The National Underground Railroad Center (NURFC) is located in Cincinnati and was built to face the Ohio River, which was an important crossing point for enslaved men and women passing from the slave states in the South to the northern free states. NURFC is a “museum of conscience, an education center, a convener of dialogue, and a beacon of light,” according to their website.
Teacher Teresa Davis helped coordinate the field trip through an invite from a member of the Bridges of Faith Trialogue group, (a group founded to welcome and accept other faiths). The trip was “eye opening and very educational,” Davis said. “Other than the buses being late, the day went very well. The open conversation at the end [was] eye opening and very honest.” The trip was about “empathy, education, and action,” Davis said. “I hope they have their eyes wide open to the history of our country.”
Senior Emily Lawrence found the trip to be both enlightening and shocking. “It made me realize how the history books I learned from are more biased, and that America tends to focus on certain aspects [like] African Americans getting segregated, but not looking at the big picture of the issue,” Lawrence said. “These facts I learned were shocking, and [they] are important for people to know because it would be wrong if people continue to have incorrect knowledge about slavery [and] African Americans.” She added that “this gaining of knowledge is important to know to understand the depth of African Americans, minorities, and POWs’ struggles that are still happening today, and we should try to work for justice to help those who are being treated poorly to try to bring about a structural change.”
Teacher and chaperone Julie Dill thought that the NURFC was an “excellent field trip location.” She enjoyed “seeing the exhibits, especially the slave pen and other artifacts. I enjoyed reading about the role of many abolitionists as well.” Dill thought that it was important to “know that slavery exists right now [which] makes working to end it a priority.” She added that there are ways, “we can get involved and help other people, even right here in Cincinnati.”
Senior Soren Hutchinson said that it was “difficult to hear about these kinds of things, [but] it’s important to educate yourself, and for that reason, I enjoyed it.” Hutchinson thought that the exhibit on modern slavery and human trafficking put the problems in our society into perspective. “It is important to educate yourself about topical matters because you can then be a voice for the people trapped in brothels who do not have a voice.”
Senior Lexi Gauger thought the visit could be improved with “more focus on implicit bias [and] privilege, [and] more in-depth historical analysis instead of basic facts.”
In an all-senior survey, students had varying reactions. Some wished that the trip could be optional, and others wished the trip was shorter.
“I think there’s only so much you can do,” Hutchinson said in response to how this trip might be improved. “I would have liked to hear more about the unconscious mind, which was in the second part of the presentation that got cut short.”
“I thought that this trip was important to develop empathy and understanding for a group that is significantly under-represented at McNick,” Gauger said.
“My mantra, along with Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth and Francesca Rose Lopreato, is empathy will cure the world, and we have to take that one step of a time,” Davis said. “We are to help those stuck in modern slavery, acknowledge where their rough edges are in concern to modern people, and love who they are.”