Hiding in coffins, John Parker and two fugitive slaves hoped to avoid capture.
It was dangerous and probably terrifying.
And it was part of this nation’s history.
On Saturday afternoon, Arlington High School student Grace Volk told their story when she and history teacher Barry Jurgensen spoke during the John C. Fremont Days Festival.
About 50 people gathered in the May Brothers’ building on Sixth Street to hear Jurgensen and Volk speak.
Jurgensen, who has walked hundreds of miles to draw attention to past- and present-day slavery, and Volk talked about the Underground Railroad of the 1800s and efforts to combat human trafficking today.
Showing how history repeats itself, Jurgensen shared stories of old-time abolitionists and fugitive slaves along with recent findings from the Women’s Fund of Omaha, which indicate that — every month — 900 individuals are sold for sex in Nebraska, often multiple times, and how commercial sex advertising reaches nearly every town and city along Interstate 80.
Jurgensen and his students work with a National Park Service program called “Network to Freedom,” which recognizes and preserves sites associated with the Underground Railroad across the nation.
By dictionary definition, the Underground Railroad was a cooperative system among antislavery advocates who secretly helped slaves on their way to freedom.
The Arlington student historians’ research involves scouring courthouse records and newspaper articles for information.
“We’re the only class, the only school in the nation doing something like this,” said Jurgensen, who has taught at Arlington for eight years. “We have been working with federal and state historians to preserve the stories of the Underground Railroad, primarily in the Midwest.”
The group has nominated 23 sites — 10 of which are in Nebraska — to the Network of…