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By Dan Burley

A Sept. 12 conference will bring national Underground Railroad researchers to Hilton Head Island next month.About 50 historians and researchers are expected to attend when the Mitchelville Preservation Project plays host to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program at historic Cherry Hill School, 210 Dillon Road.The free workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open to the public.Attendees will discuss projects related to the railroad, including research strategies, museum exhibits and artifact preservation, according to a news release. Training in maintaining and marketing historic sites also is planned."The Underground Railroad is largely based on oral tradition," said Sheri Jackson, southeast regional manager of the National Parks Service, which manages the program. "How do you research that, going beyond the oral tradition? Those are things we'll discuss."The Underground Railroad was a vast network of people who helped slaves escape the American South to the northern U.S. and to Canada. Both whites and African Americans, most of them abolitionists, maintained secret routes and safe houses.Started in 1998, the Network to Freedom program unites researchers and sites related to the railroad. It has more than 500 members in 34 states, Jackson said.Mitchelville, founded in 1862 and home to several thousand former slaves, became part of the program earlier this year. The former village served as a destination for many who used the railroad to escape slavery, Jackson said.Wayne Johnson, a Mitchelville project board member, said the conference puts a national spotlight on the former freedman's town."This elevates people's awareness of Mitchelville as a historic destination you will want to come back to," he said.Those interested in attending must register by Sept. 10. Details: [email protected] or 404-507-5635.Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at