The Exodus Family
This multi-piece sculptural work was created by artist Edward Hogan to honor the slaves that attempted to cross the West Bottoms area to cross the river to the “free state” of Kansas and a new beginning. He used scrap metal and welded it together to represent the slave family unit where though not necessarily blood-related, groups formed families in order to survive. The scrap representation also extends to the nature of survival where the people and families found scraps of clothing and equipment and scraps of food along their long and arduous journey to freedom from the South and along the Lewis & Clark Trail.
There are four figures, a father, mother, son and daughter. Each figure ranges in height from five to seven feet tall. When the surrounding plants and grasses are high and getting a little wild, you can get the complete illusion of the family working their way slowly and hopefully undetected through tall grass towards the river. On the other hand, when the surrounding plants have been tended to or it is winter, you can see just how exposed these people were to detection and how dangerous it was for them to make this journey.
There are interpretive plaques around the sculpture, including one for each figure, telling the story of each figure. There is also a plaque about the artist and another one describing the West Bottoms Incident where a number of escaping slaves were ambushed and how many of those that did escape wound up perishing in the water at the confluence of the Kaw and Missouri Rivers.
The Exodus Family is located in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City underneath the elevated highways of Interstates 35 and 70. The small park known as Freedom Mall is part of the Kansas City Riverfront Heritage Trail system. Freedom Mall is located next to the Spirit Mall, also of the same trail system, which is the location of a red Santa Fe Railroad caboose.