RIO GRANDE — The Curator and Founder of the Flushing Underground Railroad Museum Dr. John Mattox addressed Emancipation Celebration visitors Sunday afternoon in a conversational tone as he spoke about the museum and some of the history of the Underground Railroad.
“I want to make an apology before I start,” said Mattox, “if I say anything that you do not appreciate, I apologize in advance. We’re talking about American history…This is a time of coming together. I want the young children to know that before you go I want everyone of you to come up and shake the hands of these two individuals (Gerald Payne, Abraham Lincoln reenactor, and Michael Crutcher, Frederick Douglass reenactor) because they are the reason we are here. And any educators here should be given a hand because they are the bridges of education.”
Both Payne and Crutcher gave previous speeches as their respective personalities as to the history of abolitionism, slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Mattox invited the crowd to visit the Underground Railroad.
“I want you to know that there is a lot for you to see,” said Mattox. “You know that old fable? Don’t want to talk about it? Well let’s talk about it (the challenges of the past). Let’s talk about our ancestors because some of you sitting in front of me seem to be about my age…And what I want you to know is that some of these young children to hear us today are the leaders of tomorrow. We must listen to them even though the things that they say we may not understand.”
Mattox emphasized the needs of education and reunions such as the Emancipation Celebration as a means of keeping the past alive and making certain youth understood where it came from and how that effected their futures.
In a conversational tone, Mattox shared his knowledge of African American history such as how in his studies the country of Ethiopia was the first one named in the Bible. Mattox said the word “seasoning” had changed much with time as it was once originally used to describe the processes used to prepare a slave for auctioning after coming off ship.
“Every one of you can search out your lineage without going to ancestry.com,” said Mattox. “Just find out where those great-great- grandparents came from. I guarantee there was a church there, and if there was a church there, there was a cemetery there. And if there was a cemetery there, there’s names on those stones. You may not find your last name but you’ll find a last name of somebody that still lives in that area. Now, how hard can that be? I’ve given you the (motivation) now take it, and go this way, and this way, and this way.
Mattox commented on how learning history was much like the Underground Railroad, there was always something new to find when wandering in a new direction.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.