Ethnic Heritage Museum announces Escaping Slavery exhibit

Staff Report

Freedom for African Americans began with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Most people know about the Underground Railroad and how it enabled slaves to escape to freedom before 1863. Illinois was a “free state” but it also played a vital role as part of the Underground Railroad. The Ethnic Heritage Museum’s newest exhibit, “Escaping Slavery”, examines the stateline’s role in assisting runaway slaves and the Freedom Movement. The exhibit will be unveiled in the African American Gallery on Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 2 p.m.

This exhibit will highlight Underground Railroad Stations in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, some the abolitionists and the runaway slaves they assisted. It will spotlight Rockford’s involvement in the Freedom Movement. This exhibit will also include artifacts from that time period.

To help celebrate the opening of this exciting exhibit, the African American Gallery will host a free performance of Frederick Douglass – Father of the Civil Rights Movement, “My Bondage and My Freedom” a one man play with music on Sunday, August 16 starting at 3 p.m.

The play was written by Dorothy Paige-Turner and stars David Causey as Frederick Douglass. The presentation is one-half hour in length and features Douglass’ relationship with President Abraham Lincoln and the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation. We will learn why Douglass is considered the Civil Rights Leader of the 1800s.

David Causey attended East High School and graduated with a degree in Theater from Illinois State University. He has spent time in Chicago and New York acting and conducting workshops in the theater arts. He has performed in productions at Artists’ Ensemble Theatre, Starlight Theatre, Black Theater Ensemble, New American Theatre and West Side Show Room. David is touring with Mark Dvorak in the “Life and Times of the Great Leadbelly.” He will portray Frederick Douglas in “Arminta – the Life of Harriet Tubman” August 21 and 22 at the Nordlof Center.

“Frederick Douglass – Father of the Civil Rights Movement, ‘My Bondage and My Freedom’” was written and directed by Dorothy Paige-Turner. Dorothy is known to Rockford primarily as an educator and entertainer. Since her retirement from Rockford Public Schools, she has traveled extensively and enjoys writing.

Among her other writings are “Happily Ever After” for Janet Wattles that explores the many mental disorders that afflict children; “Candles in the Dark – Extraordinary Women in the Bible”; “Bishop Richard Allen – Founding Father/Freedom Fighter” (written for David Cauley). She is the creator, coordinator and director of “Scenes from Classic African American Plays – A Reader’s Theater Series” performed at Just Goods and is co-director of “Araminta – The life of Harriet Tubman.”

The Ethnic Heritage Museum located at 1129 South Main Street is unique in its blend of ethnic groups: African American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish.  A visit to each gallery will enlighten visitors to their cultural history and their contributions to life in Rockford.

“The Escaping Slavery” exhibit will be on display every Sunday from 2-4 p.m. until mid November. Admission to the museum is $3.00 for students, $5.00 for adults or $10 for families. Admission on August 16 is free to the public. Bring your family to view this amazing exhibit and learn how Rockford and northern Illinois played such an important role in our unique history. This exhibit is perfect for students.

For more information visit or email Tours can be arranged by contacting the museum at 815-962-7402. The museum is handicap accessible.

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