Talking With Ghosts About Freedom

Talking With Ghosts


A multidisciplinary and contemporary archival response
to mobile research on the migration of the enslaved


multi-disciplinary artist Kelsey Robinson is cycling 2,000 miles, connecting Underground Railroad sites, archives and museums, and developing theatrical, musical and video performance in response to regional histories of slavery in North America.


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"Talking with Ghosts About Freedom" is a project tying threads between the history of enslaved Africans, their passage towards emancipation, the culture they have bestowed upon the nation and the earth they tilled and fled over.

Starting in New Orleans, Louisiana and shooting over 2,000 miles north to Owen Sound, Ontario we are developing a trail that crosses 6 state lines; bridging Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and 1 national border. We are visiting public, University archival research centers and whenever possible traveling through National Parks and Forests.

This project is a pilgrimage that memorializes these undervalued histories of brazen migration while passing through the regions in which they originate. We are making this ‘Black hajj’ to gain a visceral empathy and understanding of the vastness of land covered. The journey itself reclaims a connection to the outdoors and attempts to tip the use of public lands by people of color towards a balance using diverse routes of expression and representing what a relationship to the outdoors can look like. As we ride we are challenging historically compounded barriers of inaccessibility, fear and trauma that exist around and within the forest for POCs.

In October 2018, Kelly Strayhorn Theater through its Freshworks residency gave Talking With Ghosts About Freedom a chance for a prototype of the project - a three-day bicycle tour in Western PA, followed by an in-progress performance at KST’s Alloy Studios.

Press: Exhibit And Performance Explores Legacy Of The Underground Railroad

in-progress performance documentation

interview with Kelsey Robinson and Di-ay Battad

Heightened Journal Text from Pittsburgh to New Brighton cycling tour