The Underground Railroad Immersion Experience; and “Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries” | WYPR

The Underground Railroad Immersion Experience; and “Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries”

Nov 20, 2014

Historian Anthony Cohen brings the ‘living history’ model to the Underground Railroad; and Earle Havens highlights the genuinely bogus texts of the Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection 

Historian Anthony Cohen in his back yard, with a replica slave collar
  At places like colonial Williamsburg and Fort McHenry and Gettysburg, historical interpreters bring history to life, as the brochures say.  They also make it an entertainment spectacle and a tourist attraction.  So what happens if you apply the living-history model to slavery?  Do you have a blacksmith make you authentic slave collar?  Do you recreate a slave auction?  Do you pack yourself in a crate and mail yourself to freedom, like Henry 'Box' Brown?  Historian Anthony Cohen has done all of the above.  He’s also collected oral histories about the Underground Railroad, mapped them into routes, and hiked them himself.  Nowadays he operates the Button Farm Living History Center in Germantown, Maryland, where visitors can experience an unvarnished interpretation of a Southern Plantation.  

Earle Havens uses 'air quotes' a lot when he tours you through the "Fakes, Lies, & Forgeries" exhibition
  If we’re to believe the rare books and manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Fictiva collection, then we have definitive proof that Noah’s Ark landed in the Swiss Alps, Homer’s tomb was discovered in Denmark, and Jesus Christ wrote the world a posthumous chain-letter from heaven.  Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries is on exhibit at the George Peabody Library, and rare books curator Earle Havens tours us through some of history’s most outlandish literary deceptions.