'Nelson Hackett Project' Joins National Parks' Underground Railroad Program
An image from the website of the U of A's Nelson Hackett Project.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Douglas Emhoff, second gentleman of the United States, and Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, recently announced 16 additions to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, which will include The Nelson Hackett Project.
The National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program is a catalyst for innovation, partnerships and scholarship, and connects and shares the diverse legacy of the Underground Railroad across boundaries and generations.
It coordinates preservation and education efforts nationwide and integrates local historical places, museums and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional and national stories.
The U of A’s Nelson Hackett Project joins nearly 700 other sites, programs and facilities in the network that honor, preserve and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight.
During the announcement, Haaland said, “Today’s announcement reminds us of the dark pages in our history books, but also highlights the incredible strength and resilience of Black communities.
“We need to look no further than the news of this week to know that our work is not done and commit ourselves to real progress. To do that, we must start by recognizing the history that brought us here,” she added.
Directed by U of A associate professor of history Michael Pierce, the Nelson Hackett Project is a digital history program that explores and the life and legacy of its namesake, freedom seeker Nelson Hackett.
In 1841, Hackett escaped enslavement in the frontier town of Fayetteville and fled to Canada, where he thought his freedom was secure. Despite opposition, he was extradited from Canada, becoming the first and only freedom seeker that Canada returned to bondage in the United States. Abolitionists, outraged by this, successfully fought to change Canada’s extradition policies so that other freedom seekers would not meet the same fate.
“Inclusion in the National Park Service Program literally puts Fayetteville on Freedom’s map,” Pierce said. “It brings national attention not only to Hackett and the region, but also to the University of Arkansas and its efforts to promote broader understandings of the past.”
Pierce spearheaded the research on Hackett and negotiation with the National Park Service. The Nelson Hackett Project emerged from the Arkansas Stories of Place and Belonging project, which was funded by a Chancellor’s Innovation Grant secured for the University of Arkansas Humanities Center by then director and now Vice Provost for Faculty Development Kathryn Sloan.
The Nelson Hackett Project is available online and can be accessed anytime.
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