Underground Railroad Consortium NYS Honored at National Training Event

Congratulations to Peterboro Heritage and the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State (URCNYS) for receiving the Robert G. Stanton Award. At the national Underground Railroad training event held at Niagara University in Niagara Falls September 11 – 14, the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State (URCNYS) received the Robert G. Stanton Award for Network to Freedom (NTF) Partners. The award was named after Robert G. Stanton who was sworn in as the National Park Service’s 15th director on August 4, 1997, as the first African American director and the first director to go through the Senate confirmation process.  His commitment to helping the National Park Service (NPS) tell a more inclusive national story led him to support the development of new parks and programs such as the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (NTF).  As Regional Director for the National Capital Region, Stanton provided support and leadership for the Underground Railroad Special Resource Study and encouraged NPS to begin commemorating this history through existing programs.  The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998 was enacted during his tenure as director. Upon his retirement as NPS director in 2001, Stanton served as the first chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Park Foundation’s African American Experience Fund (AAEF).  The selection of the Stanton award is based on commitment to the NTF, activism in promoting the program to others, and the identification of collaborative opportunities.

Diane Miller, the National Program Manager of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom for the National Park Service announced the Stanton award. Mary Liz Stewart, founder and president of URCNYS, received the award on behalf of the eighteen members of the Consortium attending the event.

The group award was followed immediately, with Miller’s announcement that Judith Wellman PhD, secretary of the Consortium, received the Wilbur Siebert Award for Exemplary Underground Railroad Research. Wilbur Henry Siebert (1866 -1961) is known for his pioneering work in the study of the Underground Railroad.  Working with his students Siebert began what would become his life’s work collecting a vast array of correspondence, interviews, manuscripts, student papers, maps, photographs, and other materials related to the Underground Railroad. Wellman, State University at Oswego professor emeritus and director of Historical New York Research Associates, developed a scale to rate the authenticity of Underground Railroad sites from 1 (probably not true) to 5 (“conclusive evidence of involvement.”)

The theme of the September training was Crossings: Bridging the Authentic Underground Railroad Past to the Present. The event was hosted by the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (NTF) Program, the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Niagara University, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  Tom Bennett, James Corpin, Ann Jones, Carrie Martin, Max Smith, and Dot Willsey from the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and / or the National Aboliton Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro presented The Relevance of Peterboro History to Today at the training and/or attended the award ceremony. For more information: www.nps.gov/ugrr