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Greetings from Madison, Indiana

Residents share info about and express their pride in Georgetown, Madison’s historic Black neighborhood that was a active stop on the Underground Railroad.


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Sue: Hi, Guideposts. I am Sue Livers, from Madison, Indiana.

John: I’m John Staicer, president of Historic Madison, Incorporated in Madison, Indiana.

Camille: I’m Camille Fife, and I’m the historian here at the Jefferson County Public Library in Madison, Indiana.

John: Georgetown is an early traditional African-American neighborhood here on the east side of Madison’s historic downtown and its roots go back to the very early foundings of the city, back to the early 1800s.

And it was a major player in the Underground Railroad here in Madison in Jefferson County, simply for the fact that many of the residents who lived and worked in that neighborhood, who were early African-American settlers of that community, helped with the Underground Railroad in many, many different ways, through churches and other organizations, like the African Methodist Episcopal church and through just kind of personal beliefs.

Sue: As a black person looking at the importance of the Georgetown area, I think about how important it was to this group of people to be able to support one another, support the Underground Railroad movement, and to have their own business and be self-reliant as a race of individuals.

My connection to the Georgetown area happens to be with the life of Chapman Harris. I do a reenactment of Chapman Harris’s wife, Patsy. Patsy was Chapman’s helpmate. Although he was a minister, he was indeed a very active Underground Railroad conductor. And Patsy was very much a part of the Underground Railroad movement as well as was Chapman.

My family happens to be related to the Harrises, which I did not find out until later, after I had done the Patsy Harris reenactment to various schools, various organizations, and various businesses about town.

Camille: Part of the work that I did, prior to coming to the library, was to do the National Historic Landmark district. And one part of the NHL was establishing and really making a case for the uniqueness of the Georgetown area and how important it was to the Underground Railroad.
Georgetown had maybe 10, maybe 12, free Black conductors and I think that one of the things that most people don’t understand, is particularly in the decades before the Civil War, that was extremely dangerous for free Blacks to do.

It was not an easy thing and we did lose at least one who was involved in that activity. To my mind, those people have incredible courage and they had- and so every time I go along and look at the buildings and the people that are represented there, I feel that I have kind of stepped back a little and got just a tiny bit of that courage myself.

John: I believe that we all answer to a higher calling. Madison is such a special place in the national context, and by helping preserve Madison’s heritage, I get to pass that on to future generations of citizens and visitors to Madison and that makes me feel good and makes me feel like I’m helping to answer to a higher calling.

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