Michigan History, State Pride January 16, 2023
7 Incredible Places Around Michigan That Were Once Part Of The Underground Railroad
The Great Lake State is loaded with history and is well known for Henry Ford’s impact on the automobile industry. But few people know that Michigan was a hotbed for the Underground Railroad because of its abolitionist population and close proximity to Canada.
1. First Congregational Church of Detroit
More than 150 years ago, Detroit was one of the last stops on the underground railroad before slaves made it to freedom in Canada. Established in 1844, the First Congregational Church of Christ was vital in the abolitionist movement. The church concealed runaway slaves in its basement until they could reach safety in Canada.
33 E. Forest Ave. Detroit, MI
2. George DeBaptiste Homesite
George DeBaptiste, a black man born free, is a notable abolitionist who was a successful businessman that owned a barber shop and a bakery in Detroit. He purchased a steamship to transport slaves across the river to Canada secretly. Though freedom seekers made it to Michigan, a free state, slaves could still be captured and forced back into slavery in the south. However, Canada prohibited slavery and ensured true liberation for freedom seekers.
498 Larned Street Detroit
3. Second Baptist Church of Detroit
The Second Baptist Church of Detroit was the first black church in Michigan and the congregants were all free and self-emancipated. The pastors and church leaders executed plans to help get slaves across the Detroit river to freedom.
441 Monroe St, Detroit, MI 48226
4. Gateway to Freedom International Memorial
Along the Detroit river, you will find two sculptures depicting freedom seekers. On the Detroit side of the river is the Gateway to Freedom International Memorial, showing slaves gazing across the water to Canada, where their freedom awaits. Across the river, in Windsor, Ontario you’ll find the Tower of Freedom Memorial which symbolizes the overwhelming relief and abundant joys freedom seekers felt once they reached their destination.
5. Elmwood Cemetary
Elmwood Cemetary has been recognized by the National Park Service as a significant site for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. People that are buried here include freedom seekers themselves along with brave folks that provided financial assistance, aid, and shelter to slaves.
1200 Elmwood Ave., Detriot, MI 48207
6. Former Wayne County Jail (Now the Rose & Robert Skillman Branch Library)
The Blackburn Rescue and Riots took place at the former Wayne County Jail in Detroit because two escaped slaves, Ruthie and Thornton Blackburn, were arrested due to the Fugitive Slave Act. They were to be returned to their enslaver in Kentucky and protestors gathered outside the jail to demand their release. Through all the commotion the Blackburns were able to escape to freedom in Canada. Black and white members of the community engaged in the city’s first-ever racial riot which resulted in multiple arrests, though only black participants were convicted. Wayne County Jail has since moved and the Rose and Robert Skillman Branch Library now stands at the site of the rescued and riots.
121 Gratiot Ave, Detroit, MI 48226, USA
7. The Stephen Bogue House
Stephen and Hannah Bogue were Quakers and abolitionists who hosted meetings in their Cassopolis home for the Young’s Prairie Anti-Slavery Society. The Bogues and their neighbors provided shelter, food, work, and financial support to freedom seekers.
Michigan 60 & Crooked Creek Road, M-60 & Crooked Creek Rd, Penn Township, MI 49031, USA
Many Michiganders worked together to provide safety, shelter, and a route to liberation to over 5,000 freedom seekers on their way to Canada. To see a map of the locations visit the Freedom Trail Website or book a tour at the Detroit Underground Railroad Historical Society website. If you would like to learn even more historical facts, check out this Road Trip That Takes You To The Most Fascinating Historical Sites In All Of Michigan.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.