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Visiting the Goodridge Freedom Center

In conjunction with the seniors’ study of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad in their Multicultural American Literature Course and the juniors study of the institution of American slavery in US History II, the 11th and 12th Grade students of Logos Academy visited the Goodridge Freedom Center to hear a first hand historical account of the abolitionist movement here in York, PA. Our private school engages students in understanding and thinking deeply about historical issues and the lives of people during those times. Beginning in Kindergarten, students learn to respect and honor one another and this learning deepens as they grow through their high school experiences.

Brandon, 11th grade, shares about the experience:

Everyone had arrived at the house, glad to have finally arrived at our destination, so that we could escape the cold. We entered the building and soon realized how small the house was, as we tried to fit about 25 people into a small room. There we stood in the room, talking about nonsense and waiting for the tour to start, when we heard a “shhh”. Everyone assumed that it was Mr. D (Upper School teacher) attempting to quiet us down. The “shhh” happened again, followed by a tap on the floor. Those two sounds echoed through the house, each preceding the other. Our attention was averted to the next room. Out of that room came a man dressed in a top hat and suit, holding a cane. He was shushing as he left that room, taping his cane after every shush. When he had moved to about halfway where we were, he started singing, “Someone’s callin’ my name” a handful of times before finally reaching us. After this, the man was silent, and, breaking the silence he created, introduced himself as William C. Goodridge–barber, entrepreneur, and conductor for the Underground Railroad.

After his introduction, Mr. Goodridge led everyone to the room that he had just exited. In that room was a large hole with a broken wooden stairway, covered with a glass panel. Mr. Goodridge assured that the glass would not break if anyone stepped on it, but everyone decided it was in their best interest to not take their chances.

In this room, Mr. Goodridge explained why the hole was there: it was a passageway that was a part of the Underground Railroad. Here, runaway slaves, or as Mr. Goodridge correctly put it, freedom seekers, would come through, hide, and meet in order to obtain their freedom.

After this, everyone was led to a room filled with black and white pictures. The only thing odd about these pictures was not their content, but what they were comprised of. Each one of these photos was imprinted on a piece of glass. Mr. Goodridge explained the Duggerian Process and Duggerian Photography–one of the earliest methods of photography that allowed photos to be printed on pieces of glass. Because of the black and white, the shadows of the room, and the age of the photos, most of them appeared opaque. In order to solve this problem, everyone was given a flashlight to brighten each photo. With the light on them, each photo turned from a mess of white and gray lines to a window of someone else’s life, a window to the past.

We were told that the one who took the photographs was Glenalvon Goodridge, the son of William Goodridge. Glenalvon was one of the few people in the country at the time who knew how to use the Duggerian Process, and was quite skilled at it. Glenalvon would later become a father of four, and would continue his career, until tragedy struck. A white woman had accused him of crimes, and, despite having an alibi and several pieces of evidence that contradict her testimony, he was found guilty and served 18 months in prison. William Goodridge fought for his son’s freedom and earned it, but it came with one condition: Glenalvon would be forced to leave Pennsylvania. Doing just that, Glenalvon took everything with him and moved to Michigan, where he continued his career.

This would conclude our tour of the Goodridge home, everyone taking home not only the complimentary bookmark, but also a piece of history that they shall not forget.

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