Category Archives: underground railroad

Underground Railroad Conference

The 9th Annual UGR History Conference: Gender, Class, Race and Ethnicity in Abolitionism, on the Underground Railroad, and in the Struggle Since will take place February 26, 27, 28, 2010
Organized by Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc.
Hosted by Russell Sage College, Troy, New York
In Collaboration with Rensselaer County Historical Society

February 26
“The Not So Underground Underground Railroad” Teacher Workshop
Rhonda Y. Williams, Ph.D. – evening guest speaker
“Railroads, Streets and Bridges – Black Women and Freedom Journeys”

February 27
Rosemary Sadlier–Mary Ann Shadd: Publisher, Editor, Teacher, Lawyer, Suffragette

Workshops, cultural performance, vendors, poster displays
Join with scholars, artists, historians, preservationists, educators, students, community members and others to explore how the forces of gender, class, race and ethnicity have influenced the UGR and movements for freedom that have arisen in its wake.

February 28
2-hour tour of Troy’s UGR and African American heritage sites

A complete listing of pre-conference activities, workshops, speakers,
accommodations, sponsors and directions is available

REGISTER at or 518-432-4432

Previous conferences:
2009 The Underground Railroad, Its Legacies, and Our Communities
2008 The Underground Railroad – How It Worked: Two Centuries of Escape,
Resistance, and the UGR Across the Continent”.
2007 Underground Railroad: Uncovering the Voices of Women
2006 The Underground Railroad: Connecting Pathways to Liberty
2005 The Underground Railroad: Discoveries and Emerging stories
2004 The Underground Railroad: Quests for Freedom
2003 The Underground Railroad: Movement And Context
2002 Telling the Untold Story: The Underground Railroad In Albany and the
Surrounding Region

I mention this every year for only three reasons:

1. I’ve gone to these events in the past and they are always very worthwhile attending.
2. The subject matter, I believe, is important.
3. Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, the organizers of the event, and indeed the co-founders of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, are good friends of mine.

I have a fourth reason this year: I’m doing one of the workshops on Saturday afternoon. So sign up already!

(n.b. – I took off from work Monday to finish off this presentation. Instead, I stayed home with a sick child; not nearly so productive. This to say that if the blog posts are a little terse for the next few days, that’s why.)
African American Newspapers: Catalysts for Social Change
Thursday,February 25th, 12:15 – 1:15 PM
Location: Librarians Room, 7th floor, Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue, Albany (New York State Library)
Register Online

African American newspapers provided vital information to the African American community by reporting stories from a perspective often ignored by their counterparts. During the Great Migration era, many subscribers in the south depended on news reports from northern publications for an accurate picture of northern life and opportunities for African Americans. In this presentation, Cordell Reaves, Historic Preservation Program Analyst at the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, will explore the impact of some of these publications and how they shaped African American life primarily during the early to mid-1900s. Bring your lunch.

Things I Love on the Internet

* A new blog on the Oscars and Instant Runoff Voting — Here’s a post about the new voting system for Best Picture, written by the Chair of FairVote Board of Directors, Krist Novoselic.
* The last new Johnny Cash album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave is being released on February 23, during what would have been his birthday week. Am buying, sound unheard, if I don’t get for my birthday.
* Brian from Coverville turned me on to Deanne Iovan’s mission, inspired by Julie & Julia, as well as the 09/09/09 Beatles’ releases, of covering The Beatles’ White Album, track by track, putting out a new song every nine days. She just put out Julia, which is at the end of side two. (Side 2? Hey, I grew up with the vinyl version of this album.)
* 500 cartoons on life in biology research.
* The Business Librarians listserv helped me answer a question this week. Apparently the doohickey on the tops to plastic containers, where the grated cheese comes out, one side being a shaker while the other side you can use a teaspoon to dish it out, is called a spice lid or a dispensing closure.
* Valentine’s Day/Census tie-in campaign with a selection of electronic postcards in Spanish and English.
* New CPR on YouTube: Continuous Chest Compression CPR – Mayo Clinic Presentation, sent to me by a nurse friend of mine, who thinks it’s terrific.
* A recent study outlines the health benefits of having more sex. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen has the details.
* My medical reimbursement company, only this week, has FINALLY decided to accept e-mailed PDFs, GIFs, etc. as well as mailing and faxes. This is particularly helpful since our fax at work does not seem to work. (When someone announced “Fax is dead!””, they weren’t kidding.)
* Found several places: The Muppets: Beaker’s Ballad – the Internet is SO mean.
* Thom Wade points to Hey! It’s That Guy!? It’s a page “dedicated to the character actors collectively known as ‘That Guy’.” Simon Oakland was one of the first ones I knerw by name as a kid.
* Betty White for host of SNL. My only problem is the notion that it’s a resurgence; she never really left.
* Arthur@AmeriNZ found a video response to the Google Super Bowl ad done from a gay man’s POV.
* An old friend accidentally pushed some button that sent an email to EVERY address in her e-address book, which allowed us to reconnect. I’ve had a child and she’s had two since we last communicated.
*Local school catches Olympic fever. “Events have included ring toss, rock climbing, hockey, boggle, hang man, reading comprehension, and math facts.” I’ll pick math facts.
* The 9th Annual Underground Railroad History Conference, Friday, February 26 at 8:30am through Sunday, February 28 at 2:00pm at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY, where I’ll be one of many presenting on that Saturday. Register now!


The Breakfast Blog

My friend Dan really cracked me up, when, in his comment to my NaBloPoMo post, he described my blog as one of the “Breakfast Blogs. That what I call blogs like yours, Roger. ‘For today’s post I’m going to tell you what I had for breakfast this morning! I had exactly what I told you I had for breakfast in yesterday’s post, but today I also had a big glass of orange juice! Let me tell you how that came about!’ etc.”

For the record, I can recall noting my breakfast habits five times in four and a half years, twice in my dedication to cold cereal, especially mixed; one about maple syrup; and a couple times in response to a meme question. OK, and once in answer to this question. That’s about once every nine months.

And it’s fine that he has a more “slow cooking” blog. Frankly, if I wrote as infrequently as he does, I’m afraid I wouldn’t write anything at all. I have so many ideas, or at least pieces of ideas floating around in my head at any given time.
What I will tell you is that I went to a comic book show on Sunday, well described by Fred Hembeck here (November 3). Had a grand old time talking with Fred, his wife Lynn Moss, John Hebert and his wife and mother, Bill Anderson, Joe Staton and especially Rocco Nigro. But what Fred and Rocco and I all said at different points was, “Where’s Alan David Doane?” He plugged the event in his blog and then no one saw him there. Maybe he was incognito in one of those Watchman or Star Wars costumes; one really can’t tell much about a person in a Darth Vader outfit.
I’ve been at a State Data Center Affiliates meeting Wednesday, Thursday and will be today, learning a lot about the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey. and other Census products. I know the Census people really can’t say this, but I can: if you don’t want some intrusive government person coming to your house, fill out the form and return it right away. The decennial form next year is 10 questions, 10 minutes. Expect me to bore you with this regularly until at least mid-April.
I TOLD you the Yankees would beat the…Cardinals I TOLD you the Yankees would win the World Series. Didn’t see an inning of it live; mostly caught the highlights.
I’m really pleased to announce that I received an acceptance letter this week for the proposal I submitted for Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc. 9th annual conference in February. I’ll talk more about it as it gets closer, but I’ve been a big fan of Paul and Mary Liz Stewart’s work on this for years.


How Sweet the Juice

I love the Internet.

Nearly three years ago, Scott asked me what my favorite book was, and after acknowledging my appreciation for reference books such as the World Almanac and the Joel Whitburn Billboard books, I noted my affection for The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip.

Here’s the Library Journal account of the book, as published on Amazon:
In Haizlip’s dramatic account of her search for her mother’s multiracial family, race is less a matter of genetic endowment than of social and psychological perceptions. Her mother and her mother’s siblings could all pass for white; Haizlip recounts their differing choices with considerable narrative force. The life-long consequences of these decisions, combined with vivid details of her family’s success in claiming position and power in a race-conscious society, and above all, the emotional pain caused by the conflicting perceptions of race, give this account an almost novelistic quality. We learn of Haizlip’s numerous prominent positions in public service and the media. In the final analysis, Haizlip raises the issue of identity itself–who is black and who is white? How do we know, and what does it mean? Highly recommended for all Americans desiring to come to terms with who we are.
– Marie L. Lally, Alabama Sch . of Mathematics & Science, Mobile
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

So, I check my e-mail Friday, and who should be writing me but Shirlee Taylor Haizlip! She thanked me for my kudos of her work, and noted that HBO had optioned her three books, for which she is currently working on the screenplay. Then she pointed out this YouTube piece running a (5 minute) interview she did when the book came out.

I watched this and I was reminded that in some fundamental way, race is as complicated in America now as it was 40 years ago when my mother, who is a black woman fair of skin, told this story. She and my father went to a business meeting in San Francisco. Well, OK, the men did, and the wives did other things. At some point, the women were talking about various subjects. The topic segued to race, and the civil rights movement – my mother didn’t bring it there – and one of the women asked, “What do you think, Trudy?” She said, “Well, being a black woman…” Apparently, that was a bit of a shock to the system of her compatriots. But knowing my mother, this was no “gotcha!” moment, but merely an honest response.
I should note that my mother, at that time, was rather fond of wearing a red wig, and it was coiffed but not in an “Afrocentric” way. In the right setting, my mother could have passed, but like Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, she had no interest in doing so.

Coincidentally, or probably not, I ran into my friend Mary Liz Stewart at the CVS on Saturday. She and her husband Paul do the Underground Railroad workshops in Albany, and she noted that a woman named Viola Haizlip had help arrange their table at the African American Family Day event this coming Saturday (August 2) at the Empire State Plaza; I’m working the table from noon to 2 pm, though the event runs until 7 pm. Haizlip is not that common a name, and Shirlee confirmed that her husband Harold has family in the Albany area.

In any case, I’ll need to seek out Harold and Shirlee’s book In the Garden of Our Dreams.

French military victories in the Arabian Gulf

You may recall that Google was, for a time, “fooled”, when typing in miserable failure, into linking to George W. Bush’s biography; now it links to the controversy over that Google bomb.

I have learned recently that the first site that loads on Google when you plug in the term French military victories is a faked Google page offering a “did you mean?” option. Searching for Arabian gulf gives you a site similar to the defused “cannot find weapons of mass destruction” fake IE error page. (Thanks, Amanda from Charleston.)
Wonder Woman shows that fighting crime is not always easy.

I went into a comic book store last week and actually bought two items: the Overstreet Price Guide (do people still call it the Overpriced Street Guide?), because my boss has started asking me about prices of old comics; and the magazine Alter Ego (July 2007), featuring a long interview with ’70s Marvel editor, and Alter Ego founder, Roy Thomas. His ascent to editor pretty much corresponded to the time I first started looking at comics again after a large gap when I had “outgrown” them; big-time nostalgia for me, I was surprised to discover.
There’s a new reality show being developed and I know all about it.
Numbers lie: I’m loving the Wall Street Journal blog, The Numbers Guy, which I write about here.
My monthly plug about the Underground Railroad conference here.

Yeah, I’m repositioning my own pieces from my other blogs for this post. Hey, it’s Labor Day weekend; cut me some slack!
Instead of watching Pedro Martinez’s pitching debut for his beloved Mets, what Fred Hembeck will be viewing (September 2). I’ll be alternating between the Mets and the U.S. Open (tennis), bumped from the local our CBS affiliate by what Fred is watching, but showing up on our CW affiliate.


Another Busy Weekend

Here are my wife and daughter frolicking at a MidSummer’s gathering this past Saturday. On Sunday, it was on to the Hembeck/Moss residence. More on these in the coming days.
Hey, Fred: NBC is rerunning that Jerry Lewis episode of Law & Order: SVU tonight at 10 pm EDT.
I love those synchronistic stories: Fred Glavine used to tell his son Tom how his favorite pitcher, the great Boston/Milwaukee Braves left-handed pitcher Warren Spahn, would have handled a situation. Warren Spahn, who had 363 wins, finished his career with the New York Mets.
Now Tom Glavine, the great left-handed pitcher, long with the Atlanta Braves, won his 300th game Sunday night, playing for the New York Mets.
I also learned that Spahn, Glavine and Early Wynn are the only three pitchers to win 300 games without having a 20-win season.
I don’t know if you bugged them about it, as I did, but Dead or Alive HAS added Doug Marlette to its list, only a couple weeks after the fact.
I’ll probably be mentioning this at least once a month until February: the 7th Annual Underground Railroad Conference, Friday-Sunday, February 22-24, 2008, primarily at the College of St. Rose in Albany. Save the date.
A couple suggested readings: ADD interviews James Howard Kunstler about the state of the nation, Kunstler’s writing career and other stuff. It’s long, but interesting, and an audio is available as well. A much shorter piece is the Brad Blog piece about the California Secretary of State Debra Bowen requiring paper ballots to be counted, “not invisible electronic bits and bites from computers run by private corporations using secret machines and secret software.”
My sister Leslie flew in from San Diego last night; actually she arrived about 12:30 this morning and is still still asleep. I, on the other hand, am (allegedly) awake.
Finally, a quiz I found on the site of Kelly Brown. FWIW, I think it’s incredibly accurate.

You Should Rule Saturn

Saturn is a mysterious planet that can rarely be seen with the naked eye.

You are perfect to rule Saturn because like its rings, you don’t always follow the rules of nature.
And like Saturn, to really be able to understand you, someone delve beyond your appearance.

You are not an easy person to befriend. However, once you enter a friendship, you’ll be a friend for life.
You think slowly but deeply. You only gain great understanding after a situation has past.


"Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color"

On February 24, 2007, Carol and I I attended a conference on the Underground Railroad: Uncovering the Voices of Women, organized for the sixth year in a row by our friends Paul and Mary Liz Stewart. It was excellent.

One of the sessions was “From the UGR to Women’s Rights: Historic Sites in Central NY” by Judy Wellman, Ph.D. From the program: “Nationally, abolitionism provided one of the most important roots of the early women’s rights movement. In central NY, a survey of sites relating to African Americans and European Americans involved with the UGR suggests powerful connections between the UGR and early women’s rights movement.” One finds a number of suffragists at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement, described well here. The quote in the title is by early feminist Frederick Douglass.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between the 19th and 20th Century women’s movements. The article cited above notes how a major anti-slavery convention in London in 1840 did not seat or hear from women delegates, two of whom were Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I recall the discussions during the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, where women (rightly) complained that they were being relegated to the sidelines, expected to do the cleaning and cooking, while the menfolk did the “important” organizing.

The toughest part of the conference had to be in the opening plenary session, in which Delores M. Walters, Ph.D. described “The Narrative Life of Margaret Garner’s Life and Beyond”. Margaret Garner was a slave who, with her family, attempted to escape, but was recaptured. Rather than letting her two-year-old be brought back into slavery, she killed her. Margaret was put on trial, and returned to slavery, but died soon thereafter.

There is now an opera, written by Toni Morrison, author of the book “Beloved”, which has a narrative section that parallels Margaret Garner’s life. It has been performed a number of times already, and it will be performed again in New York City in September 2007.

The conference ended with a responsive reading of a litany, found here.

The conference is already planning for next year, so if you’re in the area, please consider attending.

MOVIE REVIEWS: The Pursuit of Happyness; The Queen

Albany people: VOTE YES today, noon-9 pm. I’ve stolen, er, apppropriated all the reasons why here.
Carol and I saw The Pursuit of Happyness on MLK Day. Lydia was in day care, and the local theater was showing matinees. So after going to the Indian buffet, we walked to the theater. It was good, Will Smith was good, the interaction between the main character and his son were good, probably because the son was played by Will’s real son, Jaden. It was “inspirational”. So why was I not bowled over?

At first, I thought it was that the situations that the character was going through were so incredible that, if it weren’t based on a real guy, I’m not sure I would have believed it. That might be part of it.

I’ve figured out, though, that the REAL reason I was underwhelmed was that the commercials, and especially the trailer REVEALED TOO MUCH. I know that when X happened, Y would follow. A pity.
For some obscure reason, my wife was under the impression that The Queen had had reviewed badly, so when we had had a chance to go, we didn’t. (It got a 98% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.) So, when the nominations came out a couple weeks ago, and I recognized the paucity of the nominees that I had seen (The Devil Wears Prada, Dreamgirls, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Miss Sunshine, and the aforementioned Pursuit of Happyness), I decided to take the afternoon off and go see The Queen.

Immediately, seeing this movie is a problem, as it’s now “Nominated for six Academy Awards” including original screenplay, best actress (Helen Mirren) and best picture. That said, I was a bit distracted early by the use of clips of Diana, in a way I wasn’t bothered by Joe McCarthy in Good Night and Good Luck. However, after Diana dies (hope I’m not accused of being a spoiler, because that is THE plot point), I became quite engrossed in the movie. Particularly, the relationship between Elizabeth II and the newly-elected Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) was intriguing. This is not a BIG performance by Mirren, but highly nuanced. By the end of the film, the clips from the funeral procession worked for me. Not having seen enough films, I’m not sure I’d have picked The Queen as best picture, but Dame Mirren’s performance is certainly worthy of consideration, and perhaps of the treasure trove she’s already brought home (Golden Globes, SAG, etc.). I DO wonder, though, if QE II and Blair really had a piece of dialogue that foretells of the later trouble Blair would have with the British press.
Just got this, unfortunately. Mary Liz and Paul are not only friends, but they gave a great presentation at my church on Sunday

New York State Library Public Program

People of Courage, People of Hope, Seekers of Justice, a New York State Library Public Program – Free.

People of Courage, People of Hope, Seekers of Justice celebrates the Capital Regions participation in the Underground Railroad movement of the 19th century. African American residents of the Capital Region were significant participants in the international effort to abolish the federally sanctioned institution of slavery and advocate for the rights of People of Color. A rich, complex collection of historically-documented stories that have informed the accounts of abolitionists and freedom seekers will be presented in this PowerPoint presentation. Presenters: Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, independent researchers and co-founders of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc. Bring your lunch.

Tuesday, February 6th, 12:15-1:15pm

All programs are FREE. TO REGISTER online go here , or e-mail or call 518-474-2274. Classes will be held in the Librarians Room in the State Library, which is on the 7th floor of the Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue, Albany, unless otherwise indicated. The New York State Library/Reference Services, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230 (518-474-5355);


I was really good at American history. I knew (still know) the U.S. Presidents in order. Of course, I knew about the end of the Civil War at Appomattox.

My (now late) friend Donna George was helping to plan the annual meeting of the Albany United Methodist Society, an entity that has food and clothing programs, a few years back. Donna was very excited that the event was planned for “Juneteenth”. I nodded.
I had NO idea what she was talking about.

The Civil War may have ended in April 1865, but the WORD took a while to reach the whole country. And in Texas, it wasn’t until June 19 until the news came down that the war was over and that the slaves were free.

Why did I not know this until my forties? What else did I miss out on?

Somehow, this reminded me of something I remember reading in library school, probably in the 601 (introductory) course. Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, who died a couple years ago, was a very prolific writer. One of the things he said, and this is HEAVILY paraphrased, is that information disappears in a number of ways. One is by war and conquest, when to the victor belongs not only the spoils, but the chance to write (and rewrite) history.

Another is by changing technology. Think of some great album (LP) you owned that’s NOT on CD, or an old movie that’s NOT on DVD or even video. Remember the information on reel-to-reel tapes, which would be very difficult to access; or all the microfiche for which readers are harder and harder to come by.

So, here’s to the preservationists:
Those archaeologists who are going to find out about those folks recently disinterred during construction in Menands.
Those folks in Save the Pine Bush and similar groups that believe in biodiversity.
Those folks in Hollywood and DC saving our literally deteriorating film history.

A special thanks to my friends Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, who are preserving the history of the Underground Railroad in Albany through a series of tours each summer. Future tours will take place this year on June 26, July 24, August 21, September 18, and October 9, starting at 2:00 from the Albany Area Heritage Visitor’s Center at Quackenbush Square.
They have also purchased a building that was pivotal in the UGRR movement in Albany and are in the midst of restoring it.

Finally, on this 140th anniversary, thanks to the Juneteenth descendants who have kept this piece of history alive..