Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Isabel Solange Muñoz

Committee Members

Derek H. Alderman, Victor E. Ray

Abstract

United States history is constructed around a set of regional 'truths' that serve different systems of white supremacy. These ‘truths,’ based upon historical narratives of the racist South and progressive North, become crystalized in both space and place through historical racial contexts becoming loci of Northern and national pride. This phenomenon leads to a type of color-blind racism based upon the temporal minimization and geographic naturalization of racism in the United States. This paper looks at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to see how these processes unfold. It asks: Why do connections between past narratives of slavery in the United States and present national discourses about white supremacy remain unrecognized, despite the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s attempt to the contrary? In order to respond to this broader question, it examines the Freedom Center as a monument to Northern and national racial justice because of its inability to contextualize legacies of slavery in the present and complicate uncritical understandings of national identity. It empirically explores these questions through a material discourse analysis and as well as a virtual ethnography looking at visitor reviews. If historical and current racist systems and their many effects are not acknowledged as existing in the North, white supremacy cannot be overturned in the North and the US cannot begin the work of addressing ongoing issues of racism, racial violence, and structures of inequality.

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