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OP-ED: Goodridge Center a daring, brave lantern of freedom

Matthew Jackson

Some 15 years after our conceptual plan for the William C. Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum, written by a task force convened by then-York City Mayor John Brenner, building owner Crispus Attucks, Carol Kauffman and fellow stewards have carried the torch forward through adversity and apathy.

Bravo to Carol and all generous, skilled hands that have brought the center this far.

A lot more can be done, God, grants, and generosity willing. Imagine holograms of freedom seekers in the basement and Negro spirituals singing though the walls haunting and inspiring visitors.

Imagine a Thaddeus Stevens room honoring the brilliant, influential freedom-fighting congressman who began his teaching career in York just a few blocks away.

Carol Kauffman, Community Outreach Director of the Crispus Attucks Association, shows the hidden room used in the Underground Railroad at the Goodridge House Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. The center will open for the first time for a "sneak peek" at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 21, to celebrate Crispus Attucks 85th anniversary. Bill Kalina photo

Imagine an inspiring bronze sculpture of Goodridge with a lantern on a bench on the sidewalk outside as envisioned by Carol and center supporters.

In the here and now, though, each stage of progress deserves recognition. Kudos to everyone involved so far.

One suggestion. I don’t think folks know how precious, rare, and even unique the center and house is. Based on research years ago and after recently conferring with Kelly Summerford, manager of the Goodridge Center and Goodridge re-enactor, it appears that the Philadelphia Street home is unique. Not just distinctive or rare, but one of a kind, bona fide unique.

This the only known standing house owned by a former slave who used it as a station on the Underground Railroad.

In prior writings, I qualified this statement by ending with “in Pennsylvania.” After talking with Kelly, I was probably too conservative. This may be the only such house anywhere. And its status as an Underground Railroad site has been duly vetted and authenticated by the National Park Service’s National Network to Freedom.

To the best of my knowledge, this also is one of only two places in York County where a visitor can have his or her official National Park Service Passport stamped. The other is the Zimmerman Center of Susquehanna Riverlands in Wrightsville.

As an aside, shouldn’t York County, with its amazingly rich history, have other National Park Service Passport sites?

If converted into a co-use welcome center, the first floor of the Central Hotel, the only building that existed in Hanover’s square during the Battle of Hanover and General Kilpatrick’s headquarters, might qualify.

Imagine Downtown Inc.’s headquarters on the southeast corner of Continental Square, steps from where our nation’s first working constitution was adopted, becoming a state-of-the-art, multi-media welcome center and National Park Service passport site.

Other authenticated York County Underground Railroad sites, if open for public use, might qualify. The Mifflin House in Wrightsville has possibilities.

But I digress in a daydream.

For now, for the Goodridge Center, what a distinction to be the only known standing house owned by a former slave who used it as a station on the Underground Railroad. What an honor. What a remarkable story to celebrate and share.

Prove us wrong if you can. We want the truth and won’t be offended. If this special place is worthy, however, of this extraordinary claim to fame, let’s publish and broadcast these 21 words, or something similar to them, every chance we get: This the only known standing house owned by a former slave who used it as a station on the Underground Railroad.

Let’s also use use the words as a tag line on the center’s signage, marketing and website at

Our truth must not be shamed or tamed. She must be daring and brave.