What Means THIS Stone?

When I first began my tenure here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center I was introduced to then President Dr. Clarence G. Newsome’s video “What Mean These Stones?” In the video he addresses the inspiration and symbolism behind the architecture of the Freedom Center and its location by the Ohio River.  While he speaks, visuals of the museum's outside walls as well as images of the river reflect the struggles the escaped endured in their pursuit of freedom.

While going through the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection I come across an artifact the “Gore’e Island Rock”. The significance of this rock is that it came from Gore’e, an island off the coast of Senegal. The island served as a slave port and was the last of Africa slaves would see before making way through the Middle Passage into the unknown of the Americas. Bernard Kinsey mentions that he traced his ancestors to Senegal, which I’d imagine this particular artifact has special meaning to him.

As I think of the “What Mean These Stones?” video and the Gore’e Island Rock piece on display in the exhibit, I see how something as simple as elements of the earth such as stone and water can have such meaningful impacts. Both tell stories of opposing ends. On one end, you have a stone that represents the enslavement of Africans and the beginning of an atrocious journey to a life of servitude. On the other end, the stones of the museum walls and the Ohio River tell a story of hope, resilience and triumph.

Artifacts in the Kinsey Collection such as the Gore’e Island Rock share glimpses of small, yet extremely important stories that the Kinsey’s hope you’ll appreciate. Even a stone can offer a piece of history and challenge your thinking. See the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection as we’re in the final weeks. #MyNURFC


Will Jones
Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center