In a previous post, I wrote about Troy Jackson, and the church he heads in Cincinnati, Ohio. I could only spend a few days with Troy, before we both had to head off for Columbus for the Community Organising course he had kindly arranged for me to attend.
I flew into Cincinnati on the evening of 15 June, and enjoyed meeting Troy’s family and seeing something of Cincinnati. It’s an interesting city, as its position on the Ohio river (a tributary of the Mississippi) made it an important city in the development of the west. It also holds an important place in the struggles around slavery, as the Ohio river marked the boundary between the northern, non-slave states, and the southern slave states. Many escaping slaves fled across the river from Kentucky into Ohio across the river in the years leading up to the civil war, a history which is remembered at the National Underground Railroad Museum, which faces across the river in downtown Cincinnati. The Underground Railway was the name given to the escape system for slaves, run at great risk by freed slaves and their white supporters. The museum tells the story of the escape route, as well as the general history of slavery, the Civil War (in which Cincinnati was, of course, in the front line) and the subsequent political, social and culture history of black Americans. It also looks at contemporary kinds of slavery, such as human trafficking. We spent a fascinating afternoon in the museum, whose moving exhibits bring to life the story of the suffering and hope of African Americans. It is a reminder of how the race question has been part of American history from the very beginning. The wars against native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans are a reminder that the for many of the nation’s inhabitants, the affirmations of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (all men are created equal) were (and perhaps still are) merely rhetoric.