Underground Railroad History in Michigan

So excited!  As a lover of American history – both its good and its bad history – I have found that there is a wealth of history on the Underground Railroad in the state where I recently became a resident.

I recently wrote a couple of blogs about statues of African-Americans in the USA.

Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre Memorial  and

Denmark Vesey – Leader of Failed Rebellion

I knew there was a statute of Harriet Tubman in New York City.  This statute was dedicated in 2008 and is located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

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However, I was surprised to find out there is not one, but two statutes of Tubman in Michigan.  In researching information on these statutes, I discovered that Michigan was very much involved in the Underground Railroad.

Looking at the map of Michigan it is easy to see why this location would have been perfect for those trying to escape slavery and find freedom in Canada.  Surrounded by three of the Great Lakes – Michigan, Huron and Erie, Michigan’s eastern cities are only a short distance from Canada.

The first monument is a bronze statue of not only Tubman but local conductors of the Underground Railroad, Erastus and Sarah Hussey.  This statue in Battle Creek, Michigan depicts Tubman and the other two conductors leading a group of runaway slaves to safety.   Created in 1993 by sculptor Ed Dwight the W. K. Kellogg Foundation commissioned the work.

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The second statue of Tubman is in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Located in Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan there are numeous sites connected with the Underground Railroad.

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(Permission for use of this photograph of the sculpture is granted by sculptor Jane A. DeDecker, Loveland, Colorado.  The sculpture of Harriet Tubman was created in 1995 and is an Edition of 7 with one located near the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock Arkansas.)

 

Cass County in Southwest Michigan also offers many sites where the Underground Railroad was conducted by both free blacks and whites.  Slaves fleeing the South passed through Cass County, then on to Battle Creek and Detroit on their way to freedom in Canada.

So – what started as just wanting to see what statutes of African-Americans there were in the USA, I am excited to find I am near to a lot of history of the Underground Railroad.

Looks like I will be busy checking these sites out!  Can’t wait!

And, of course, I will be writing about these sites as I visit them.

Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre Memorial

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Crispus Attucks one of five killed in the Boston Massacre

Recently I shared a post about a statue of an African-American that my husband and I found when we were exploring a park in Charleston, North Carolina.  One of my readers wondered how many statues there are in the USA of African-Americans.  That started me on a search to find other statutes honoring them.

As a fan of President John Adams I have often read about the Boston Massacre which occurred on March 5, 1770.  Colonists who were very resentful of the British soldiers  stationed in Boston began to gather and taunt a small group of the soldiers daring them to shoot and pelting them with snow, ice and oyster shells.

As often happens when mobs take action, it appears one of the colonists struck a soldier with a rock and they reacted by firing their muskets into the crowd.  Three Americans were killed instantly and two more suffered wounds from which they soon died.

Attucks was the first colonist to fall and thus became one of the first to lose his life in the cause of American independence.  His body laid in state at Faneuil Hall in Boston until March 8.  Colonists printed pamphlets dubbing the event the “Boston Massacre” and made its victims instant martyrs.  Rather than a mob out of control they became symbols of liberty.  At the time blacks could not be buried in the same cemetery as whites, but in this instance Attucks was buried along with the others killed that night. All five victims were buried in a common grave.

John Adams took quite a chance on any future political career when he defended the British soldiers in court against the charge of murder.  Adams described Attucks as the self-appointed leader of the mob’s attack.

Every year leading up to the Revolutionary War the citizens of Boston observed the anniversary of the Boston Massacre.

In 1858 a  “Crispus Attucks Days” was established and a memorial was erected to the five martyrs:  Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray and Samuel Maverick.

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While this is not a statue dedicated to Crispus Attucks alone, it is quite remarkable that, given the attitude of that age toward blacks, that he was buried with the others and included in this memorial.

Ten to 15 black soldiers fought against the British at the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill.  Although two of these men were recognized early for their bravery, Salem Poor and Peter Salem, it quickly became clear that while the founding fathers spoke of all men being created equal, they did not include enslaved blacks in that category.  Sadly, the 5,000 to 8,000 blacks who contributed to the cause of liberty both in combatant roles in battle and in noncombatant roles were never given recognition for their service and never granted the liberty the War was supposed to give to all men.

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