History Comes Alive With Southwest Ohio Re-enactment

Experience the Painstaking Escape to Freedom as “Sadie” Narrates Her Story in Warren County, Ohio

September 2006 – LEBANON, OH – “Sadie” was terror-stricken when she saw her mother being sold from their plantation in Virginia. A few years later, a small 13-year-old Sadie followed her mother’s fate and was included in an inspection line-up with a group of young female slaves, facing a potential future filled with sexual exploitation and back-breaking labor. Sadie chose to flee, seeking refuge in the north.

“I was out in the woods for months and I ran out of food, so I had to watch the animals to see what they ate”, states Sadie, as she recalls her treacherous journey north. “It was so cold and sometimes I just wanted to lie down and die.”

Novella “Sadie” Slaughter, a resident of Warren County, Ohio, was born in Virginia Beach, VA, the youngest of ten children. As a child, Novella heard whisperings about a great-grandmother who had been a slave until the age of twelve. Novella wondered why no one would talk about this and in her mind decided it must be something to be ashamed of.

As an adult, a desire grew within Novella to explore her own roots. Her employment at the Springboro (OH) Historical Society, a museum that documents the important role Springboro played as a depot on the Underground Railroad, allowed her the opportunity to do just that. However, when first approached by the museum to be a Warren County historical slave re-enactor, Novella refused. After much prayer and soul-searching, and the urging of one of her son’s, who stated, “If you don’t do it Mom, who will?” she finally agreed that the story was an important one to tell.

The character Novella represents, “Sadie Wilkins” (which evolved from her great-grandmother’s name, Sally), has a story to tell, that takes her from Virginia, all the way to freedom in Canada. Novella’s moving tribute of “Sadie” is very powerful and emotional. She portrays Sadie for many local, civic, and tourism organizations, bringing alive the history of slavery, and speaking about how slavery still affects the world today.

Novella volunteers at the Springboro Historical Society Museum and is on staff at Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where she re-enacts “Sadie” for tour groups and visitors. She is a mentor to other re-enactors represented by a local historical marketing organization, the Southwest Ohio Heritage Triangle.

Slaughter is motivated to continue to tell Sadie’s story to ensure that people don’t forget about the sacrifices that were made to allow future generations to be free. She feels it’s important to show that slavery is still present in today’s society, informing children and adults that everyone has the right to make “choices”, and not to “be a slave” to injustice, drugs, and violence.

To find out where to hear “Sadie’s Flight to Freedom”, and to learn more about the Underground Railroad in southwest Ohio, contact the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-433-1072, or www.ohioslargestplayground.com.

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