Excuse me.. 1-10

Dear Readers,

I would like to add to a front page story that was entitled “DeWeese and Thomas’ efforts help to jump-start Freedom Trail Commission” in the June 2, 2002 to June 15, 2002 issue.

When I first requested that  Representative Paul DeWeeses’ office send me information regarding the appointment of Committee members, I did not consider the fact that some people would not know about House Bill 5637.  Please note also that DeWeese was not a legislator until 1999 and hence did not vote on the original legislation. However, he was  the facilitator of the process of getting the commission seats filled by the Governor’s office.

The sponsor of the bill is Representative Samuel Buzz Thomas, who we featured in our Spotlight On section in the April 7, 2002 -April 20, 2002 issue.

The bill created the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission Act creating a “Michigan Freedom Trail Commission” in the Department of State to promote and preserve the history of the freedom trail and the Underground Railroad in the State.

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators passed a resolution supporting the federal initiative and proposing state and local initiatives to preserve historical sites and identify significant routes and events associated with the history of the Underground Railroad. In 1997, the New York legislature passed legislation creating a state commission to commemorate that state’s historic sites associated with the Underground Railroad.  Legislation has been introduced to set up similar commission in Michigan to promote and preserve the history of the freedom trail and Underground Railroad in Michigan. 

The bill was passed in 1998, and at the time 9 commission members were to be appointed by the governor within 90 days of the bill’s effective date.  Appointed members would consist of:  three members from the academic community who were knowledgeable in historic preservation; one member who represented local communities in which the underground railroad had  a significant presence; and three at-large members, one of whom would have to be a representative of the Museum of African American History in Detroit.  There would also be three ex-officio members.

We also did a front page story titled “People of the Cass County Michigan “Underground” by Robert M. Gordon in our May 5, 2002 to May 18, 2002 issue.  In that article Mr. Gordon wrote about the “Quaker Line” which consisted of Quakers who knew that by helping runaway slaves they could not only lose their land but their lives.  But because of their strong conviction about slavery they still took a chance.

I spoke with a reader who said, “I never thought about the fact that there were a lot of white people that helped slaves to freedom.”  As profound as the idea is, it is the truth of the matter.  If anyone would like a copy of that issue please contact me. 

In the fall of 2001, three years after the Freedom Trail Commission was created, it came to the attention of Representative DeWeese that the Commission was not yet filled.  Representative DeWeese then called the Governor’s office and insisted that this be given top priority.  After months of working with the Governor’s office, the appointments were all completed and the inaugural meeting of Commissioners was held on May 7, 2002 in Lansing Michigan.

Under Representative Thomas’ leadership, the 89th Legislature passed the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and Governor Engler Signed the legislation into law on Dec. 22, 1998.

I am not a politician, nor do I profess to be a Democrat or a Republican.  What I am is human like the rest of the readers.  If we Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites,  Blues and Greens would work together the world would be a much better place.

The “Nu” readers just want information and action.

I would also like to thank Marlon Fairweather, G. Gregory Wallace and Lou Barnes, for helping me understand the workings of fraternities, while we were covering the Alpha Phi Alpha story.  They worked diligently on the project  and it showed.


RN Risper

Printed in Volume 1 Issue 10