Carol Goins - Guest Blogger: Follow the North Star Interpreter
For 30 years, I taught Indiana history; for the last 10 years, I, like MANY others, continue to teach here at Conner Prairie. Follow the North Star
is probably the most renowned program we do - having over 55,000 participants since its inception. Michelle Evans continues to do an exceptional and excellent job heading this program.
Being involved with Follow the North Star at Conner Prairie continues to be one of the most moving, meaningful and "growing" experiences of my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I were volunteers - as walkouts - explaining some of the history and expectations to the "slaves" about to embark on their journey. When leaving the group at the arranged slave trade sale, inevitably a shaking guest would ask if I could "go with them?" "No, I reply, I've done all I can do. Wait here for your new master", often walking away in the dark with tears in my eyes trying to just barely comprehend the horrific fear the slaves must have had.
As an interpreter, I've done various posts - including one of the ambivalent Merrick sisters ("You got a right to be free - but NOT HERE....") and, the most meaningful to me, Rachel Halsey - the wife of Levi Halsey. They are Quakers striving to protect and help the slaves move along on the Underground Railroad. Rachel welcomes them to their home, but is worried for the fugitives, and for her family, if they get caught. As Levi explains: "There are no slaves in our home."
To prepare for any post of Follow the North Star requires a mindset to set the stage or think like your character. For me, this starts when I dress in the historic clothing and arrive at our briefing thinking and feeling as compassionately and as realistically as possible. Easy? Not hardly. Important? Vital to the success/impact of the program for each participant.
After 12 or 15 groups during the day or evening, it takes awhile to "come down" a bit as my heart begins beating normally. It is an emotional experience for the interpreters - and guests - who have opened themselves up to learn and grow.
My husband also played the role of one of the Ward family - the free black family. His perspective was that, yes, this was an "ugly" period in our history, but we need to understand, appreciate and accept what both blacks and whites did to aide each other. In our briefing with the guests, we tell them that: "The Underground Railroad was a shining example of 'Mans Humanity to Man'." How true.
And, for me, an honor to be able to participate in this program. I intend to do so as long as I am able.
As Conner Prairie Interactive History Park continues to prepare for the grand opening of the 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
, follow along with the fictitious reporter Wilson Mayweather as he gives a perspective on the events of the only Civil War battle to take place on Indiana soil. This reporter and story is fictitious; representing an amalgamation of historical facts.
Find out what happens next for the small town of Corydon from Reporter Mayweather’s next story.