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Jeanine Michna-Bales: 2014 Finalist

In Through Darkness to Light: Seeking Freedom on the Underground Railroad
, I have spent over a decade meticulously researching “fugitive” slaves and their journeys to freedom. The unnumbered routes of the Underground Railroad encompass countless miles. The particular path I photographed here, from a cotton plantation in Louisiana all the way to Canada, covers roughly 2,000 miles and depicts the actual sites, cities, and places that freedom seekers passed through on their way north.

Though many books have been written on the Underground Railroad, there is little visual documentation of it. The goal of Through Darkness to Light project is to provide a sense of what it would have been like to take this journey out of bondage—to run in fear for roughly three months with very little help along the way—in order to seek the fundamental human right of freedom. In today’s America, as we become more and more diverse and cross-cultural, an appreciation and understanding of the experience, and those who lived through it, is more relevant than ever. The Railroad united people from different races, genders, social backgrounds, religions, and regions in a common and worthwhile cause: It was our country’s first civil rights movement. I hope the project will open up dialogue, and in the end, provide a better understanding of where we all came from.—Jeanine Michna-Bales

 

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