Friday, October 30, 2015

9 Days Only! How To Survive Slavery

Most parents don't have to watch as their children are subjected to the brutal horrors and indignity of slavery, what Africans who arrived in America between the years 1619 and 1865 endured. But a living history museum in Indiana offers that opportunity with an immersive experience called "Follow the North Star," in which guests take on the identity of exploited slaves.

A slave snatcher examines a group of potential slaves; c. Conner Prairie

Since the innovative educators at Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana began the program in 1998, more than 75,000 people have survived it.

Each November and April, Conner Prairie reenacts slave escapes using its 200 acres of farmland dotted with historic barns and buildings. Carefully trained, costumed interpreters become terrifyingly greedy slave hunters, or sympathetic locals who assist victims on the Underground Railroad, the clandestine road to freedom.

An Indiana local provides escaping slaves with a route north to freedom; c. Conner Prairie

These "escapes" are so compelling as living history because it is the guests -- those who pay for the privilege -- who are themselves enslaved.

A ticket entitles visitors to be herded, flee, run scared, listen to abuse, bond with other escaping slaves and, finally, find a sympathetic family who provides safe haven.

A Quaker family offers to help the slaves escape; c. Conner Prairie

The Conner Prairie team adds an educational component to the moving experience, saying, "This powerful program brings to life a pivotal period of our nation's history, and shines a light on issues of social injustice that we still struggle with today in schools and workplaces across the country."

Slave Hunters round up escaped slaves to earn the bounty on their heads; c. Conner Prairie

Unlike historic slavery, the modern slave trade -- still a huge global problem -- is fragmented and impossible to quantify as it moves across borders, between classes and among races. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 issued by the U.S. Department of State identified 44,000 survivors, and more than 20 million victims, around the world enslaved by sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, and debt bondage. The deplorable trade in persons is often close by, yet unseen, unrecognized or just ignored.

It is hard to believe such human cruelty exists... until it happens to you.

For 2015, opportunities for degradation, humiliation and escape occur November 4, 6, 7, 12 through 14, and 19 through 21. They begin each night at 6:30pm, with start times staggered every 15 minutes.

According to the Conner Prairie staff, some guests cry through the whole experience; others beg to be allowed to leave. Because of the intense insights into human nature that result from the experience, only guests age 12 and older can participate, and children ages 12-16 must be accompanied by an adult.

The 1 hour 45 minute program costs $20 per person. As the Conner Prairie website promises, "You'll walk away with a lot to think about."

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