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Underground Railroad to be Focus of BC Symposium

Stories of the Underground Railroad will be the focus of a campus-wide symposium at Berea College on Nov. 4.

Ann Hagedorn

Ann Hagedorn will read from her new book, Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad. Her reading will be accompanied by Allen Schwartz who has composed original songs based on the book. The program is scheduled from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel.

The symposium is made possible by a gift from James Bartlett, Berea College Trustee, and his wife, Hanna Bartlett. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Beyond the River” tells the true story of those who worked on the front lines of the Underground Railroad along the Ohio River, especially the men and women who lived in the small town of Ripley. Its location on a narrow and shallow bend of the Ohio River in the free state of Ohio, directly across from the slave state of Kentucky, made Ripley an ideal gateway for slaves fleeing the South. Led by abolitionist minister John Rankin, the Ripley "line" of the Underground Railroad guided hundreds of slaves to freedom.

Hagedorn is a librarian, author, and journalist, who lives in Ripley. Using research skills gained during her career as an investigative reporter, Hagedorn spent three years researching and writing about the people there who helped slaves northward. “Beyond the River” has earned her nominations for the Pulitzer Prize in history and the American History Association for best non-historian writer of history.

Hagedorn holds degrees in history from Denison University and journalism from Columbia University. She began her writing career covering business news and white-collar crime at the San Jose Mercury News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Daily Times, and also has taught journalism at Northwestern University and Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She is the author of two previous books: “Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc.,” and “Ransom: The Untold Story of International Kidnapping.”

Schwartz is a historian, songwriter and musician who regularly accompanies Ann Hagedorn’s readings with his original music.

Following the presentation there will be a question/answer, and dialogue session.

For a complete listing of Berea College Convocations for 2003-04, visit online at

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