Underground Railroad comes to life with living museum

Some fifth grade girls took a field trip through history, they won't soon forget.

The First Congregational Church in Detroit has transformed its lower level into a living replica of the Underground Railroad.

Members of the Winans Academy of Performing Arts took the trip through time and so did Maurielle Lue and FOX 2.

"I thought he was going to come in and capture us," said student Eyonna Hogan. "And that we would be brought back as slaves."

FOX 2: "How did that make you feel?"


Its not real, that's what this group of students tried to tell themselves over and over and again - but it was.

The Flight to Freedom Tour at First Congregational Church in Detroit is a time portal taking visitors from 2015  to the mid-1800s  on a quest for their freedom. 

But they are in good hands, the conductor "Bo" has made this journey before. 

"My name is Bo and I ain't never lost a passenger," he told the group. "And I ain't going to lose one today."

It is a storytelling reenactment of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret tunnels and safe houses slaves traveled to free states between 1840 and 1863. 

This living museum takes the children from a plantation in Louisiana to the shores of Detroit -- but it begins at the door of no return. All who crossed were warned they would be killed before they were allowed to turn back. Better safe than sorry.  

The girls were instantly overcome with emotion, walking a cold, dark trail that in real life, would take at least a year to travel.

They'd used the stars as navigation, eating snakes and frogs to survive until they got to the next safe house. They were hidden and protected by abolitionists. 

"You children going to be alright," said a praying lady. "Lord got you, children."

But not everyone was so supportive. After making it to another safe house the group were turned away hungry and tired. 

It was a devastating blow - and emotional for some of the students.

A woman walking in the hall sings "Let my people go."

Later, they hid from a bounty hunter in a false bottom wagon, then crossed the Michigan state line and slowly made their way to midnight  - also known as Detroit. Bruised but not broken, they did it together. 

Together, Bo and the group marked their arrival in Detroit singing.

"When he was talking about slaves, I can't explain it," said student  Mariah Jackson. "But it's educational."

"People got whipped if they were reading and they got their leg chopped off if they were trying to run away and they got caught," said student Rachel Martin.

Three hundred sixty five days later they are in Detroit, where so many stopped and made a new life for themselves in southeast Michigan. 

Many more went on to Canada. 

We will never know how many took this passage way, but we know for all who survived there are so many more who died for the right to be free.

For more information, go to the Friends of the First website by clicking HERE.

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