PORTSMOUTH, VA. (WAVY) — A Civil War Trails Underground Railroad interpretive sign is set to be unveiled in Portsmouth Friday morning.
The ceremony takes place at 9 a.m. outside the Emanuel A.M.E. Church located at 637 North Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth. The date was selected to coincide with the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Month and to recognize the Emanuel A.M.E. Church as a designated stop on the Park Service’s Network to Freedom Trail.
The dedication ceremony is open to the public. Speakers at the event will include Portsmouth Mayor Shannon E. Glover, Dr. Alexander Benitez, Mae Breckenridge-Haywood, and Pastor Billy Hunter of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
Local entertainers and historic re-enactors portraying Portsmouth natives Jeffrey Wilson, Portsmouth’s first Black journalist, and Robert Irving, a Portsmouth native who escaped along the UGRR, will also be on hand. The program will last about 30 minutes.
The installation follows a year’s worth of hard work from the African American Historical Society of Portsmouth, the City’s Department of Museums and Tourism, and Civil War Trails, Inc. who teamed up to research, write, and review content.
The new sign helps tell the story of the men, women, and children who were escaping the horrors of slavery via the Underground Railroad. It’s part of the multi-state Civil War Trails program which helps visitors from around the world stand in the footsteps of history at over 1,400 sites is promoted internationally by a partnership of state tourism offices, municipal destination marketers, and the sites themselves.
After the ceremony, guests are invited to download the self-guided Underground Railroad walking tour on their phones and explore other sites around Olde Towne important to the effort.
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