Buffalo, New York
July 16, 1993
The second official Underground
Railroad Advisory Committee (URAC) meeting was held on July
16, 1993 at the Buffalo Hilton Hotel, in Buffalo, N.Y. The
Advisory Board Chairperson, Mr. Charles Blockson, called the
meeting to order at 10:30 A.M. Committee members attending
this session included: Ms. Rose Powhatan, Ms. Vivian
Abdur-Rahim, Mr. Charles Blockson, Dr. Ancella R. Bixley,
and Ms. Glenette Tilley-Turner. NPS participants included:
Mr. John Paige, Mr. James Charleton, Ms. Barbara Tagger, Mr.
Vincent deForest, Ms. Karen Arey, Ms. Tamara L. Felton, and
Mr. Steve Elkinton (who was scheduled to give a
presentation). There were no participants from the general
public attending the meeting. The first order of business
was a review of the minutes (Philadelphia, March 31, 1993).
After some discussion of changes to, and clarification of
the minutes, Mr. Blockson moved that the meeting progress as
scheduled, and Mr. Paige suggested that further comments
regarding the minutes be given to Ms. Powhatan
(Secretary)—to be later forwarded to Ms. Felton for
changes. The motion was passed that the minutes from the
Philadelphia URAC meeting be adopted “per changes submitted
by the URAC” during this committee meeting.
order of business on the agenda (attached) was temporarily
postponed. Questions from committee members regarding Dr.
Robin Winks’ involvement with the Underground Railroad (UR)
study were raised. Many were concerned with his ability to
participate in future meetings and events, but agreed that
he too was a victim of circumstances.
Mr. Paige opened the floor for
discussion of the National Historic Landmark (NHL) study
process—motivating questions pertaining to funding and
non-National Park Service (NPS) sites. Dr. Bickley asked
that the process for identifying and researching sites (not
in the NPS) be explained, and that those sites be given as
much attention as those already existing under NPS policy.
Mr. Charleton expressed that this was a concern of the NPS
as well—stating that funding and time allowed Ms. Tagger
only nine trips to sites, and that these NPS sites were
priority because they were already proven acceptable
according to NHL standards (for reasons other than the UR,
but to which the UR study may still apply). He suggested
that the committee’s participation in researching sites from
their respective areas would benefit the program, expedite
time, and defray costs to the project. Mr. deForest advised
that anyone visiting sites contact the State Historic
Preservation Office in the area. Although many of these
organizations may appear uninterested, Mr. Charleton
suggested that their ambivalence may be motivated
more-or-less by the fact that they “just don’t know” the
significance of particular properties and/or sites. Dr.
Bickley reiterated her concerns about the field-work process
as it relates to non-NPS sites—sites (perhaps) identified on
the basis or oral history alone. As the budget is
established, she stated, is it possible to allocate more
funds to staff (and particularly the URAC) to uncover these
sites? Although that may not be likely, any member
(according to Mr. Paige) accompanying NPS staff to sites can
be funded (like travel for meetings), if funding allows.
Charleton distributed information, further explaining the
program and the NR,
and gave more examples of why they’ve decided to research
Blockson presented an article (Philadelphia Inquirer, July
13, 1993) which stated that a 93 million dollar figure had
been recommended the NPS
to commemorate the Civil War. (Clarification: This figure
was recommended by a NPS
advisory committee on the Civil War and not the
is a concern of his due to this fact
and other examples, where monies were not evenly distributed
among projects which involved African-Americans. Ms.
Abdur-Rahim stated that someone should have been present to
request the necessary funding for this project. Nonetheless,
Dr. Bickley expressed the need to diversify the project in
the future, and for the committee to explore as many ways
possible for commemorating the UR—placing faith in the
efforts of the committee (and not entirely in the
government). Mr. Paige agreed with this evaluation—stating
that his (and the NPS’s) primary
objective for the study was centered around completing the
requirements listed in the legislation. Because the goals of
the URAC and the NPS study team slightly differed (in order
of priorities), he suggested URAC take independent action on
any number of things—like advocating additional funding to
move the project along as they see fit.
Mr. Blockosn, in particular,
felt that this route would be taking advantage of the
committee members’ intellectual property—property that would
be benefited from, but not adequately compensated. However,
to Mr. deForest’s knowledge committee members do not receive
financial reward for study work or the knowledge rendered
during the study. Travel expenses for meetings and to review
sites can be paid. Dr. Bickley questioned if it were
possible to switch Mr. Blockson from the Advisory Board
Committee Chairperson role, to the role of consultant—so
that he might be paid for his intellectual property. Mr.
Paige stated that he would look into this proposal and
report the findings to the committee at a later date.
Ms. Tilley-Turner requested
time be dedicated to discussing the Briefing Statement (sent
to the URAC via fax or mail on July 2, 1993 again
distributed in the URAC packets at Buffalo, July 17, 1993
Mr. Elkinton, Long Distance
Trails Coordinator, began his presentation by expressing his
pleasure to have been invited to speak, and giving an
example of his personal commitment to preserving UR history.
A descendant of Quakers in Pennsylvania, who assisted in the
UR, Mr. Elkinton feels a particular kinship to this study.
He opened by stating that the “rule book” for National
Trails—the National Trails System Act will be celebrating
its 25th anniversary (October). The Act included four kinds
of trails: Scenic Trails (this program doesn’t form trails
by systems, which would be important to commemorate the UR
study), National Historic Trails (UR study fits two criteria
for this system: It is a part of a significant route [or
migration] of a people, and it has potential for outdoor
recreation), Side and connecting Trails, and National
Recreational Trails (This is a recognition system by plaque
and/or letter from the Secretary of the Department of the
Interior or Secretary of Agriculture). Mr. Elkinton
paraphrased a friend who stated that the National Recreation
Trails program is “a worthwhile but [regretfully]
Mr. Elkinton suggested that the
URAC and study team not attempt to identify every site.
Instead, the URAC and the study team should “set up a system
of processing site information.” His presentation, further
detailing these and other issues regarding trails systems is
The meeting adjourned for lunch
until 2:35. Questions regarding the presentation were
addressed during the lunch break.
After lunch, URAC voted that
their complete addresses appear on the press release.
Therefore, inquiries will be sent to their immediate
attention. Mr. Paige suggested that URAC members attending
the meeting contact those who were absent to tell them about
this particular decision.
With regard to the Briefing
Statement, Mr. Blockson asked that Mr. Warren Brown (the
study coordinator in NPS, WASO) clearly state the exact
figure for the UR study funding (the Statement included an
It has become clear to the URAC
that increased funding for the UR study for FY 1994 will
require political (thus, financial) support. Mr. Paige
stated that it is generally the responsibility of URAC to
lobby for this support. The NPS Study Team can not spearhead
such an endeavor, not can they officially advise committee
members on who to contact, or what to ask for. Dr. Bickley
stated that she had intended to send a letter to her state
representative—Senator Robert C. Byrd. Mr. Elkinton agreed
with this idea, stating that Senator Byrd, the Head of the
Appropriation Committee, would be a primary candidate to
hear such requests. Mr. Paige confirmed that any help with
increasing the project’s budget would be welcome. Perhaps
then, the project may receive enough (maybe $25,000.00 -
$50,000) to “keep us limping along”.
“We haven’t marshalled the kind
of support needed for this project,” stated Dr. Bickley. And
if it is too late to do anything more, she continued, “I see
this time (without, or with little financial support) as an
opportunity to plan and continue our research.” Because the
project doesn’t get the funding requested for FY 1994
doesn’t mean that it will be defunct, stated Mr.
Paige—making reference to another project that took eight
years to complete due to fluctuation in funding levels.
There was general
discussion about the NPS’s Special
Resource Study monies, and appropriate measures that could
be taken to request additional funding via this route. (Mr.
Paige stated that these funds may be divvied sometime in
November of this year.) A letter, stated Mr. deForest, may
encourage the Secretary of the Interior to think of the UR
study as a project that should get money. Mr. deForest asked
if the $276,000.00 figure was inclusive of the NHL study.
Mr. Paige confirmed that $40,000.00 of that figure had been
allocated for the NHL study.
According to Ms.
Powhatan, the Interpretation Sub-committee met briefly the
morning of July 16, 1993, and decided that the images of
persons such as Mr. John Parker and Ms. Harriet Tubman
should appear on the logo (among a few others which might
reflect the UR as it was—a multicultural effort). The
sub-committee suggested that the logo be unveiled at the
annual Association for the Study of African American Life
and History (ASAALH) meeting on October 20-23, 1993 in
Baltimore, Maryland. The artist commissioned to design the
logo can be financially compensated for his/her work, but
the government could not copyright it, stated Mr. Paige.
However, he is uncertain if Ms. Powhatan (being an artist
herself, and a member of the committee) can be commissioned
to do work. Mr. Blockson moved that the URAC vote on the
suggestion to unveil the logo during
ASAALH. The vote was unanimously in
favor of this suggestion. The logo will be informally agreed
upon (prior to the ASAALH
meeting) by the URAC—via mail, fax and telephone. Mr. Paige
assured the URAC that the NPS will not need to approve the
logo. This is a decision to be made by the URAC, alone.
Details surrounding the
URAC’s participation in the
ASAALH evoked discussion on the following
points: 1. the rental charge for the booth in the exhibition
area (it was suggested that the cost be taken out of the
NPS/UR study budget), at this point, Mr. deForest
volunteered to provide the exhibit standards and stated that
the National Capital Region Office may be planning an
exhibit, and would include information on the UR study; 2. a
presentation and/or informative session could be given by
the Committee Chair (alone, or with URAC members) for
conference participants; and, 3. the positive results from
being actively involved in the ASAALH
meeting (the NAACP Headquarters are in Baltimore and may be
able to show support of the project at this time, using
ASAALH’s format may encourage Congress
to look into additional funds for the study). It was further
discussed that URAC’s participation
would address specific requirements in the legislation
regarding public involvement, and increase UR awareness.
The range of possible
alternatives for the UR study (attached) was presented for
suggestions and comments from the URAC. Mr. Paige stated
that the list of sites criteria will be present to the URAC
at the next meeting. The Alternatives will be changed to
reflect suggestions of the URAC: 1. Alternatives C/Hubs and
Spokes should be incorporated into another Alternative;
Alternative D/Enhanced Existing Units/Sites should be
written to include non-NPS existing and/or high potential
sites (Mr. deForest suggested that a distinction be made
between existing and non-existing sites of the NPS), and the
alternative should be given another name more specific to
the UR study’s purpose (a name which includes caves, other
buildings, swamps, etc.; Alternative F/New National Parks
System Unit should perhaps be renamed as well (Mr. deForest
suggested it be called the New Underground Railroad
Historical and Archeological district). Dr. Bickley moved
that these and other changes be developed by the NPS to
reflect these details, and presented to the committee again
during the next meeting. Mr. Paige stated, however, that all
changes would also have to be reviewed by other NPS
Mr. Blockson suggested
that the next meeting be the day before
ASAALH events—perhaps on October 20, 1993.
This is generally the day reserved for participants to
check-in and get settled. Mr. Paige said that he would
attempt to get hotel accommodations in the same hotel as the
Mr. Blockson suggested
that the URAC briefly discuss the “Concept for Potential
UGRR Sites” draft—submitted for review
by the Sub-committee of Sites. Mr. deForest requested that
more inclusive language be used (paragraph one) to reflect
other peoples, such as Native Americans.
Ms. Tagger asked that the URAC,
and particularly Mr. Blockson, list several definitions for
the UR by the next meeting (for discussion). This
information would clarify the URAC’s objectives for the
study, and benefit the future selection process of
interpretive methods. Ms. Tilley-Turner stated that a
glossary of NPS terms would be helpful in understanding NPS
policy. It was decided that the draft be resubmitted for
more discussion. All were in favor of these suggestions
being reviewed during the next meeting.
The second official URAC
meeting adjourned on July 16, 1993 at 6:40 PM.
Submitted by: Tamara L.
U.S. Department of the
Interior, NPS, WASO