Sylvania: Friends of Freedom Society, Inc. Holds 14th Ohio Underground Railroad Summit

By Amanda Nelson, posted on October 26th, 2011.
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On Friday, October 21, the Friends of Freedom Society, Inc., a grassroots, all volunteer, non-profit organization devoted to researching, documenting, and preserving Underground Railroad sites throughout Ohio, met in Sylvania, OH, for its 14th Ohio Underground Railroad Summit entitled, Sylvania: A Final Terminus.  The 2011 summit focused on the impact the Underground Railroad had on Ohio’s Northwest Region, and the roles certain people and places played in the quest for freedom.

Reenactors of the 5th U.S.C.T., Company C.

The Friends of Freedom Society, Inc., in collaboration with Joy Armstrong, curator of the Sylvania Historical Village and Heritage Museum, opened the summit Friday evening with a reception.  During the reception, the Fifth U.S.C.T., Company C, a reenactment group, set up camp on the Historical Village grounds.  The reenactors, who portray the lives and service of black men, women, and children during the Civil War, spoke during the reception about their responsibilities as black soldiers and women on the war front.

On Saturday, October 22, the second and final day of the summit began with morning educational sessions that took place at the SouthBriar conference area.  Three local educators and historians presented their findings and scholarship on local Underground Railroad activity, and ways to research, document, and educate about the Underground Railroad.  The presenters included Judy Justus, President of the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum and President of the Wolcott House Guild; Kim Kozbial-Hess, a Toledo Public Schools teacher; and Dr. Janet Rozick, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, University of Toledo.

Miles Lathrop House (Sylvania, OH).

Following the presentations was a guided bus tour of Underground Railroad sites in Maumee and Sylvania.  Sites included,  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Maumee, OH); Amasa Winslow Broom Factory (Maumee, OH); Wolcott House (Maumee, OH); Harroun Farm (Sylvania, OH);  and Miles Lathrop House (Sylvania, OH).  There, summit attendees received an “inside look” into some of the historic places that were a part of Ohio’s Underground Railroad secret network.

Saturday’s evening events began with a dinner and awards program that was followed by a dramatic musical production.  The awards program honored certain individuals for their contributions to keeping Ohio’s Underground Railroad history alive in their communities.   The 2011 award recipients included, Ada Woodson Adams (Stewart, OH), Conductor of the Year Award; Ann Cramer (Athens, OH), Outstanding Contributions to the Underground Railroad Award; Joy Armstrong (Sylvania, OH), Kim Kozbial-Hess (Toledo, OH), Sarah Groves (Sylvania, OH), Yvette Darden (Sandusky, OH), Beverly Reed (Columbus, OH), Joan Southgate (Cleveland, OH), Medals of Honor.  The dramatic performance that closed out the summit was a fascinating portrayal of the lives of three Underground Railroad conductors, a bounty hunter, and runaway slave.  The production moved individuals to tears as it depicted the dangerous and emotional lives and journeys of abolitionists and slaves who sought freedom on the Underground Railroad.


The next Friends of Freedom Society, Inc. summit is set for October 2013.  For more information about the efforts of the Friends of Freedom Society, Inc., or to become a member, visit

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