Eleanor Skelton blogs at eleanorskelton.com, is the news editor of the UCCS student newspaper, and is majoring in English and Chemistry. The following was originally published on Eleanor’s blog on March 6, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.
< Part Two
Why did you informally call yourselves the UnBoxing Project?
Right after I moved out, several others came to me, and I’d provided emotional support or physically helped them to move out. I’d alert the same network of friends who supported me, enlisting their aid.
My friend Cynthia Barram, who also happens to be African-American, started calling it “Eleanor’s Underground Railroad.”
The name stuck. I think this was for a couple of reasons.
1.) Homeschool kids often read a lot of history.
I researched the Underground Railroad for a 6th grade project, and I often reenacted what I read, playing “slaves” and “overseer” with my siblings. Several of my homeschooled alumni friends that I met in college played the same games in childhood.
Before bedtime, my mom used to read us Laura Ingalls Wilder books and the Between Two Flags series, set during the Civil War. I read biographies of Harriet Tubman and historical fiction like Jip, His Story, and the patriarchal Elsie Dinsmore series. My friends Kathleen and Rebekah wrote their own Civil War historical fiction novel in late middle school, distributing serialized chapters after church each Sunday.
I think homeschool subculture really connected with this narrative.
We weren’t immersed in popular culture, so we tended to identify more closely with people from before our time.
2.) It became a model for social action.
No, we weren’t actually enslaved.
We were controlled, some of us were abused. My friend Kyle, who works at a non-profit to prevent human trafficking, says that the number of young adults from this background being denied agency by overbearing parents is troubling.
But we didn’t adopt the name as a direct comparison. I don’t pretend to understand what others before suffered. It was just a model, a template.
The original Underground Railroad worked because it was subtle. A secret, subversive organization for social justice, involving Quakers, escaped former slaves, and other religious or politically motivated people who couldn’t tolerate the injustices they observed.
So they hid people, moved them from house to house until they reached freedom.
And that’s what my friends and I did.
We took people escaping oppression into our homes, fed them, gave them a place to sleep until they were ready to move on to their next station. We told them it was okay to be themselves, to follow their dreams and desires.
Harriet Tubman and the others became like our patron saints, our guides. We followed the model because it worked for those before us.
And by following in their footsteps, we also sought to honor them.