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Local Juneteenth events: Walking the path of freedom in Southwest Ohio

Daughters of the Underground Logo
Daughters of the Underground

A group of women are stirring up public interest in the underground railroad — one step at a time.

This Sunday, Daughters of the Underground are commemorating Juneteenth by leading a walk along a portion of the Underground Railroad in Southwest Ohio. The 10-mile route goes from Wilberforce to Yellow Springs.

Juneteenth recognizes the day when this nation’s last group of slaves in Texas finally learned they were emancipated — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.

Kimberly Smith is a member of Daughters of the Underground. She and seven other women in the Washington D.C. area are walking the same routes Harriet Tubman used to gain freedom in 1849.

“We knew we wanted to walk in the footsteps, so we can draw attention and make sure folks know, this history is alive it’s not in the past, it’s now," Smith said.

This Sunday, smith and other members of this nonprofit will lead a public walk from Wilberforce to Yellow Springs.

Group member Jennifer Bailey plotted out the 10-mile route. It’s the same path where almost 200 years ago African Americans traveled to escape slavery. According to her, enslaved people from neighboring Kentucky and West Virginia knew crossing the Ohio River meant freedom.

"Black people since they were stolen from the shores of Africa have always been seeking their freedom. And they risked their lives during winter, when most people escaped during the spring,” Bailey said. "There’s so much work to be done. And I hope the people who come on this walk with us are able to find a place to put their energy for good."

The walk begins at 8 a.m. outside of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center — on the main campus of Central State University.

It culminates in Yellow Springs, where members of the 365 Project will welcome walkers to a Juneteenth celebration. Register online here.

Kathryn Mobley is an award-winning broadcast journalist, crafting stories for more than 30 years. She’s reported and produced for TV, NPR affiliate and for the web. Mobley also contributes to several area community groups. She sings tenor with World House Choir (Yellow Springs), she’s a board member of the Beavercreek Community Theatre and volunteers with two community television operations, DATV (Dayton) and MVCC (Centerville).