Helena-West Helena officially opens Freedom Park to the public with a dedication this Saturday, Feb. 23. Freedom Park, located at 750 South Biscoe in Helena-West Helena, includes exhibits that focus on the often-forgotten story of thousands of escaped freedom seekers who followed Union troops into the river port city in July 1862 or fled to Helena in the months afterward as word of freedom spread through the Arkansas Delta. The exhibits follow the journey of the African-Americans from fugitive slave to freedom; and for some, enlistment in the Union Army and participation in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation exhibit is the centerpiece of the park.
Freedom Park has been named as a part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, the first site in Arkansas to receive the prestigious designation.
The dedication ceremony starts at noon on Feb. 23, and includes an honor guard from the 13th United States Colored Troops Living History Association. Also on hand for the event will be author and historian Ronnie Nichols, former director of the Delta Cultural Center and Old State House Museum, who has spent years researching colored troops in the Arkansas Delta during the Civil War. A reception follows the dedication, as well as guided tours of Freedom Park, Fort Curtis and the historic Moore-Horner House. For more information, log on to www.CivilWarHelena.com or phone 800-358-0972.