Grinnell College panel to discuss the Underground Railroad on May 1

The panelists will explore the Underground Railroad's impact locally and nationally

Students reading new books in the libraryGRINNELL, Iowa —  What was the Underground Railroad and why did it exist?  Panelists Kesho Scott, Chris Jones, Randye Jones and Catherine Rod will answer that question during "'Riding' the Underground Railroad" on Tuesday, May 1, at Grinnell College. The event is free and open to the public, and begins at 4:15 p.m. in Burling Library Lounge, 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.

The panelists will discuss the Underground Railroad's societal impact nationally, Grinnell's local perspective and what roles music and quilt making had in communicating within this secret "railroad."  The program is sponsored by the Department of American Studies and the Grinnell College Libraries.

"The Underground Railroad played a significant part in American history of the Antebellum period,” says panelist Randye Jones. “Attendees will hear about the slavery system that led to the railroad’s creation and its impact on American society. They also will learn how Grinnell residents participated in the railroad, and how songs and decorative quilts of the day helped direct riders safely along its routes.”

Scott, associate professor in American studies and sociology at Grinnell College, is a global diversity consultant. Her goal is to educate across generations and national cultural boundaries to inspire democratic participation, open new pathways to equality and celebrate difference. She was a pioneer in conducting unlearning racism workshops and trainings.

Chris Jones, special collections librarian and archivist of the college, holds a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Northern Iowa, and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Burling Library in 2010, he worked at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Rod, associate professor with senior faculty status and formerly the archivist at Grinnell, has been a member of the library faculty for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of Augustana College and holds graduate degrees from the University of Iowa (library science) and Iowa State University (history). Her many projects include exploring the Social Gospel Movement of the late 19th century and the important part Grinnellians played in it.

Randye Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Bennett College and a master’s degree in vocal performance from Florida State University, Tallahassee. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in vocal literature at the University of Iowa. She has gained recognition for her research of and published writings on African-American vocalists and composers, and as a performer and lecturer through her various projects. She currently works with media collections in the Grinnell College Libraries.

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Burling Library Lounge is equipped with an induction hearing loop system, which enables individuals with hearing aids set to T-Coil to hear the program. Information about parking and accessibility is available on the college's website: Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

The college also welcomes the presence of minors at all age-appropriate public events and for informal visits, with the understanding that a parent, legal guardian, or other responsible adult assumes full responsibility for their child’s safety and behavior during such visits or events. In these cases, the college expects that an adult responsible for the visiting child takes measures to ensure the child’s safety and sees that the child complies with directions of college personnel. Grinnell College is not responsible for supervision of minors on campus.

About Grinnell College

Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,700 students from all 50 states and 44 countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at