On September 28, 2022, the URCD accepted the Wilbur H. Siebert Award from the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom Program in a virtual ceremony that closed a busy International Underground Railroad Month. Board members, Debra Martin and Gloria Henry accepted the honor on behalf of board members and volunteers, past and present, who advocated for over five decades for recognition of Delaware’s place in Underground Railroad history, and who researched the stories of forgotten freedom seekers and Underground Railroad operatives.
The award, given annually, recognizes outstanding contributions to research on the Underground Railroad. The award committee commended the URCD on “twenty years providing a forum to promote and preserve authentic Underground Railroad history in Delaware.”
Wilbur Henry Siebert, a 19th and 20th century scholar, was an important pioneer in the research and preservation of the history of the Underground Railroad. As a history professor at Ohio State University (1891-1935), he became a specialist in the Underground Railroad and undertook a seven-year project to collect related documents and conduct interviews with abolitionists, formerly enslaved persons and their descendants. Thanks to his interviews with Harriet Tubman, we have Delaware place names and people of importance to her missions. In 1898, Siebert published one of the first scholarly books on the topic, “The Underground Railroad, From Slavery to Freedom.”
The award plaque will make the rounds of the Coalition’s partner organizations, beginning with The Old State House, Dover, for the month of February, 2022.