Traveling Through Michigan’s Underground Railroad Trail
During the month of February, as we celebrate black history, we can't forget about all of our ancestors who lost their lives throughout the years. Of course, it's easy to think about the good parts and remember the heroes, but what about the tough times and the forgotten?
Many of us know about Harriet Tubman and the crew she used to help slaves reach freedom, but that's as far as it goes. As a long-time Michigan resident, I was aware that a lot of slaves traveled through the state to get to Canada to claim freedom, but I never knew the exact details. Over the last few days, I found a lot of information, including a trail starting at the border and ending in Canada.
While looking into the topic, I came across a blog that just explains and shows love to the beautiful Mitten State, From Michigan with Love. Along with other fun and cool stories about Michigan, I found a detailed blog and trail of the portion of the Underground Railroad that resides in Michigan.
The first portion of the trail runs through Southwest Michigan as they cross the Indiana border and settle in Cassopolis or Vandalia before moving on to Schoolcraft and Climax. As the slaves silently moved throughout the state, slave owners traveled behind them trying to recapture their property. Things end in Southwest Michigan after the slaves pass through Battle Creek and safely arrive in Marshall.
This was about the halfway point through the state and the beginning of the home stretch. Slaves at the time had no clue how much longer it would take and were forever living in fear, but at this point, they only had 3-4 more stops to make before they were free. In a matter of days, they would be free, but where else would they have to stop before then?
Home Sweet Home
The second half of the trip through the Mitten State starts in Jackson with the Deland family. William and Mary Green, another husband and wife pairing, along with the help of their son would open their home to freedom seekers on the regular. They would house, feed, and bathe the freedom seekers before sending them on to the next part of their journey.
As the freedom seekers get closer to Detroit the realization is starting to settle in, they are inching closer and closer to their ultimate goal. First, they would have to make it to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor safely. The Perry House and the Guy Beckley house which were both on Pontiac Trail along with the former integrated schoolhouse on Traver Road were safety stations during the Underground Railroad.
Ann Arbor also ran the "The Signal Of Liberty", an anti-slavery newspaper and currently plagues from that newspaper hang in the Wall Street Parking Garage. These addresses mentioned would be the last stops they make before reaching Detroit.
Now, once in Detroit, we know what happens next right? They navigate the city in the same way they navigated the entire country, slowly and quietly. This would be the last time they had to watch their backs because once they left Detroit, they would be considered free.
There are countless monuments, museums, statues, and other landmarks that are original to the Underground Railroad or created to tell the story of such a significant part of our country and state's history.