Courtesy Menare Foundation
GERMANTOWN, Md. — Once in a while, you meet a person so interesting that his story turns history into tourism. That is the case with Anthony Cohen, founder of the Menare Foundation.
Menare, which means “leading of people,” is derived from the Bible and was a password used by travelers on the Underground Railroad. Borrowing the password, Cohen has developed a foundation dedicated to “preserving the legacy of the Underground Railroad.”
Cohen brought his message to the opening dinner of the African American Travel Conference in Baltimore and spellbound the audience with his story of re-creating the walk to freedom and the making of the upcoming movie based on his story.
In May 1996, Cohen embarked on a two-month-long journey that began in Sandy Spring, Md., and traveled 1,200 miles by foot, boat and rail to Ontario, Canada. Along the way, Cohen traced the steps of runaway slaves along wilderness trails and waterways to Quaker sanctuaries.
In 1998, Cohen followed up with a three-month journey beginning in Mobile, Ala., again headed to Canada. His experience as one of the few living people to actually experience the hardships of the journey brought Oprah Winfrey to seek his help as a coach in her television role as Sethe in the film “Beloved.”
Cohen, a fourth-generation descendant of a runaway slave, is producing a documentary feature film “Patrick and Me,” an amazing true story of a runaway slave who was captured under the Fugitive Slave Act and later went on to fight in the Civil War. “Patrick and Me” is scheduled for release next year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the event.
The Menare Foundation is based at the Button Farm Living History Center in Germantown, Md., which is open to group tours.