Fugitive slave experience forces participants out of comfort zones for better understanding of struggles, dangers


    Duane Brodt
    Director of Public Relations
    Conner Prairie
    (800) 966-1836

    Media Note: View a preview video of Follow the North Star on Vimeo.

    FISHERS, Ind. (Friday, Oct. 30, 2015) – On the run, Dominique King sensed that something bad was about to happen. In heavy woods and darkness, the Michigan woman walked softly while constantly looking over her shoulder in fear she was going to be caught. She was.

    King was ordered to the ground. She was told she was going to be strung up in the trees and killed. King was yelled at, intimidated, berated and confined with a small group of others while their captors talked about what to do next. Then, someone yelled to run. 

    “I didn’t hesitate,” she said. “I struggled to my feet and we all just ran.”

    King participated in Follow the North Star, a program that recreates some of the conditions, struggles and dangers that fugitive slaves in 1836 experienced as they navigated Indiana’s terrain and sought northern freedom. Follow the North Star begins on Wednesday and runs Nov 6-7, 12-14, 19-21.

    The scenario: Guests are slaves brought north by their owner, who decides to sell them at an illegal nighttime auction in the woods. Throughout their 90-minute ordeal through the historic grounds of Conner Prairie in Fishers, Ind., they capitalize on multiple opportunities to escape but must avoid slave traders and choose whether to trust sympathizers.

    None of the horrors or atrocities of slavery are depicted and no vulgar language is used. But participants are forced out of their comfort zones for a realistic historical re-creation.

    “Follow the North Star is a drama and guests are the characters,” said Conner Prairie President and CEO Ellen Rosenthal. “The intent of the program aligns with Conner Prairie’s mission to immerse guests through hands-on experiences that lead to a much higher level of learning than takes place from studying a textbook or watching a documentary.”

    The program ends as guests encounter a visionary who shares their eventual fate – some are tortured, others captured, some die and a few find freedom. A debriefing session allows participants to share their feelings, ask questions and learn more about Indiana’s role in the Underground Railroad.

    After the program, facilitators draw correlations between 1836 slavery and today’s human trafficking, bullying and equal rights struggles.

    Follow the North Star debuted at Conner Prairie in 1998 and is offered in November and April. More than 30,000 guests, including more than 17,000 students ages 12 and older, have participated in the last five years. The program has earned national awards from the American Association of Museums and American Association for State and Local History. Tickets are available online at connerprairie.org or by calling (317) 776-6000.

    Spanning 850 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park welcomes more than 340,000 guests of all ages annually. Five outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces combine history with science, technology, engineering and math and offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.


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    Conner Prairie is a nationally acclaimed interactive history park. Its mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiencing. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call 317.776.6000 or 800.966.1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate. Connect with Conner Prairie on Facebook at facebook.com/connerprairie, Flickr at flickr.com/people/connerprairie, YouTube at youtube.com/user/ConnerPrairie and Twitter at twitter.com/connerprairie.