PYM’s Willits Book Trust Committee Honors Storytellers and Bridge Builders of the Underground Railroad

Addressing Racism, Grants

The Willits Book Trust Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting presented books to a number of participants who attended “Crossings: Bridging the Authentic Underground Railroad Past to the Present,” a training event in Niagara, New York Sept. 11th – 14th, 2019, sponsored by the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, and the Association for the Study of African American Life. The sessions exposed participants to the latest scholarship and interpretation of the 19th century Underground Railroad, focusing on both its international context and its place in the Atlantic World while exploring its continued relevance to the present and future. Field sessions were held in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Canada.

Willits member Lisa Stewart Garrison, also a member of Greenwich Friends Meeting in South Jersey, presented William Still’s book “The Underground Railroad” and Frederick Douglass’ “Autobiography of An American Slave” to: Gwen Redus, who designs African American history tours in conjunction with Sojourner Truth Tours in the City of New Orleans (pictured top left); Veta Tucker, a retired professor from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, now a docent for the Smith Antebellum Plantation Museum in Roswell, GA (pictured top right); Vanessa Adams-Harris who conducts outreach and alliance building on behalf of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation in Tulsa, Oklahoma (pictured bottom left); and Heather Ersts of the Maryland Office of Tourism, Dept. of Commerce (pictured bottom left), who received the books on behalf of Chanel Compton, Director of the Maryland Commission of African American History and Commerce.

Together, the recipients’ affiliations suggest the broad range of entities which are working together to lift up and connect the stories of the Underground Railroad, including small businesses, universities and museums, conflict resolution centers, and government agencies. The presentation of Frederick Douglass’ book are made possible through a collaboration between the Willits Book Trust and the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

Presenting books and other media that embody Quaker values and principles to individuals, organizations and entities serving African American communities in the American South is a central practice of the Willits Book Trust Committee and a means of honoring those who work towards abolition, human rights, freedom seeking, and peacemaking in American culture. The Willits Book Trust is a Quaker Grantmaking Program of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. For further information contact Grants@PYM.org.