The Underground Railroad on Lake Erie

February 26, 2014

Time: 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Location: Student Center Fountain Lounge


woodcut of slave refugee

Experts will discuss the history of the slave escape network, the Underground Railroad, along Lake Erie.

In 1820, fugitives from slavery in the American South began showing up at harbors such as Sandusky, Cleveland, Fairport and Ashtabula on the southern shore of Lake Erie. These and other places soon joined the Detroit River and the Niagara frontier as major crossing points for freedom seekers going to Canada.

Americans rarely think of waterways such as the Great Lakes as part of the system of slave escape known as the Underground Railroad.  Yet, friendly sailors and ship captains, along with intrepid abolitionists, helped hundreds of runaway slaves make a liquid passage to liberty.

Join three engaging speakers for presentations and a panel discussion of the role of Lake Erie in the Underground Railroad in the decades before the Civil War:

  • Tiya Miles, professor at the University of Michigan in the Departments of American Culture, Afro-American and African Studies, History and Women Studies as well as the Native American Studies Program. Her essay, "Of waterways and runaways: Reflections on the Great Lakes in Underground Railroad history," brought much-needed attention to this subject.
  • Carol Mull, historic preservationist, author of The Underground Railroad in Michigan and a founding member of the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission.
  • John Polascek, maritime historian and former curator of the Dossin Great Lakes Maritime Museum, who has spent many years uncovering evidence of specific Lake Erie crossings by runaway slaves.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is sponsored by the Black Abolitionist Archive at the University of Detroit Mercy.  Admission is free.  No RSVP required.

RSVP: Unnecessary