What are your thoughts on the Underground Railroad as a historical icon? Teacher Caroline refers to it as ‘a silver lining to the dark side of slavery.’ Do we tend to forget the origin of these historical icons and why they existed in the first place? J: People have been asking, ‘Why is this in the zeitgeist?.’ Part of the function of the piece is to say that it’s certainly convenient to talk about the entire system of slavery, spend a little time talking about how hard slavery was, and then say, ‘But there was this really great Underground Railroad and there were a lot of really helpful white people on it.’ I think that that’s bound in this—a lack of being able to reckon with the evil, the injustice, the perniciousness of the institution of slavery, and to shed light on this narrative of the white saviour. Because as long as that white saviour exists, we don’t have to fully deal with it. I think that the nation feels like an adolescent right now, and that’s why people have used the term ‘woke,’ because they’re thinking, ‘Wait, wait, I didn’t actually realise that all of the things that I’ve held to be true are A) not true for everybody and B) are wrong.’ And there are some people who say, ‘I will not look at things like that.’ I think that the mythos of the Underground Railroad helps assuage the brutality of actually reckoning with truth for those who need that salve. Read the full Q&A with the creators of Underground Railroad Game on our blog.
Program for Malthouse Theatre's production of Underground Railroad Game (2019).