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A Journey Begins: Nature's Role in the Flight to Freedom

With endless picturesque scenes that reflect the conditions freedom seekers encountered en route to freedom, Adkins Arboretum serves as the ideal backdrop to provide information about the little-known historical relationship that exists between nature and the Underground Railroad. 

Related programming is offered regularly, including field trips for school groups. The Arboretum is part of the National Parks Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Please see below for the Arboretum's A Journey Begins: Nature's Role in the Flight to Freedom audio tour, now available virtually, and for additional resources.

A Journey Begins...

Imagine traveling by foot over a forest floor thick with spiny pods from the sweet gum tree. They prick your feet with every step, but still, you move on.

Imagine foraging for something to eat, your meal consisting only of pine roots, persimmon, and sassafras buds, but you can almost taste your own freedom.

Imagine feeling lost and searching for direction, hoping for a clear night sky and the North Star to guide you, for you know your place in the Promised Land has been written in the stars.

All this and much more challenged the freedom seeker's journey north. The obstacles faced while breaking from bondage were multiplied with each step of the way.

The Arboretum grounds are similar to the landscape navigated by freedom seekers more than a century and a half ago. This audio tour explores the little-known relationship between nature and the Underground Railroad and interprets the profound connection between landscapes and historic conditions and events. In doing so, it emphasizes the importance of preserving native landscapes throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

Developed by Arboretum staff and volunteers in concert with noted historians Anthony Cohen and Dr. Kate Clifford Larson and consultants Q Media Productions, and funded through generous grant support from Maryland Humanities Council and Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, this educational and thought-provoking self-guided tour examines how nature provided both obstacles and opportunities for freedom seekers.

Click on the video below to view, or click on individual tracks to hear specific stops on the tour in relation to a map of the grounds.

Tour Stops

Individual Stories

Click here to learn about the National Parks Service National Freedom Trail and more options for exploring the Underground Railroad in the Chesapeake region.