On May 1, fourteen FreeTHEM Walkers began a nine hundred-mile journey from Lynchburg, Virginia to Buffalo, New York retracing Underground Railroad escape routes from slavery. They walked about thirty miles a day, planning to return to arrive in Buffalo for Juneteenth celebrations. Buffalo was often the last stops on the Underground Railroad before freedom seekers escaped to Canada. Juneteenth, June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Africans in Texas learned that they were free, officially ending slavery in the United States. It is now an official public holiday in New York State.
The FreeTHEM Walkers are led by Kelly Galloway, founder of Project Mona's House and the FreeTHEM Center in Buffalo. Their goal is to highlight the problem of human trafficking in the world today and raise money to build a human trafficking restoration home in Western New York. The walkers are filming a documentary of their trip.
In Richmond, Virginia the FreeTHEM Walk team stopped at the White House of the Confederacy, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis resided during the Civil War and a slave auction house. Other historic sites they visited include stops on the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Albany, New York, and the African Burial Ground in New York City.
On Memorial Day, the FreeThem Walkers visited the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, outside Utica, New York. Peterboro was home of New York abolitionist Gerrit Smith. In Auburn, New York, local leaders greeted the FreeThem Walkers at the town’s Equal Rights Heritage Center and attended a memorial celebration at Harriet Tubman's gravesite.
Historic New York Underground Railroad sites
Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, Albany: Stephen and Harriet Myers were central figures in the New York State Capital Region Underground Railroad movement. Their home on Livingston Avenue served as a meeting place for local the Vigilance Committee and a stop-over for Freedom Seekers. It is being restored by the Underground Railroad Education Center.
North Star Underground Railroad Museum, Ausable Chasm: Lake Champlain was a gateway to freedom in Canada along the Underground Railroad. The northern route followed the Upper Hudson River, the Champlain Canal, and Lake Champlain to the Canadian border. Museum exhibits include the stories of enslaved individuals and families who traveled through the Champlain Valley to Canada or settled in the area. https://northcountryundergroundrailroad.com/museum.php
Harriet Tubman National Historical Site, Auburn: This house and farm was the home base for Harriet Tubman. She was granted the property by Senator William Seward and Frances Seward, who lived up the road in Auburn. Frances was an important supporter of the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, Tubman operated a home for the aged here. The Seward House is also a museum.
Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn: The basement of Plymouth Church at 57 Orange Street in Brooklyn was a hiding place for Freedom-seekers escaping on the Underground Railroad. It was led by anti-slavery minister Henry Ward Beecher. Visitors to the church include President Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The National Register of Historic Places designated the church a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Gerrit Smith Estate National Park, Peterboro: As head of the Liberty Party, Gerrit Smith was one of the most important abolitionists in the United States. Smith settled escapees from slavery on land his family owned in the Adirondack Mountains and helped finance Frederick Douglass’ newspapers.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Niagara Falls: It is located inside a former U.S. Custom House attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station. Its One More River to Cross exhibition highlights the role Niagara Falls played as the last stop for Freedom Seekers before crossing the Canadian border.
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