News Release Date: April 23, 2021
WASHINGTON – Today, Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced 16 additions to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. The new listings join nearly 700 other sites, programs, and facilities in the network that honor, preserve, and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight. A recording of the event can be viewed via YouTube.
“Today’s announcement reminds us of the dark pages in our history books, but also highlights the incredible strength and resilience of Black communities,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “We need to look no further than the news of this week to know that our work is not done and commit ourselves to real progress. To do that, we must start by recognizing the history that brought us here.”
The event capped National Park Week, an annual weeklong celebration of America’s national parks which encourages the public to explore the vast network of our national parks, sacred sites, and historical landmarks, as well as our shared heritage contained within them.
At the event, National Park Service Chief Historian Dr. Turkiya Lowe and Park Ranger Casimer Rosiecki from Gulf Islands National Seashore highlighted two of the new listings, including the Lizzie Ambie Escape Site in Cambridge, Maryland, and the Barrancas in Pensacola, Fla.
“The Underground Railroad was pivotal to the ongoing struggle for civil rights, and the stories of freedom seekers, such as Lizzie Ambie, who bravely self-liberated are still humbling to us today,” said Dr. Turkiya Lowe. “The Network to Freedom Program is dedicated to amplifying diverse histories and providing a platform to convey a more complete history of our country.”
“The Barrancas preserves powerful and emotional stories related to Underground Railroad, including that of a freedom seeker named Henry who, though previously captured, tortured and forced to wear an iron bar riveted tightly around his ankle, persevered and traveled about 100 miles to find freedom” said Park Ranger Rosiecki.
The Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program is a catalyst for innovation, partnerships, and scholarship that connects and shares the diverse legacy of the Underground Railroad across boundaries and generations. It coordinates preservation and education efforts nationwide and integrates local historical places, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories.
There are now 682 listings in 39 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Network. Each one provides insight into the diverse experiences of freedom seekers who bravely escaped slavery, and their allies.
The new Network to Freedom’s listings are:
Arkansas - The Nelson Hackett Project is a digital humanities program at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville that explores the life and legacy of the only freedom seeker to be returned from Canada to bondage, which sparked public outrage that led to changes in Britain’s extradition policies.
Florida - The Barrancas at Gulf Islands is where freedom seekers and others joined the U.S. Army during the Civil War.
Georgia - Dungeness Plantation on Cumberland Island is where British troops established headquarters during the War of 1812 and promised freedom to the enslaved, after which the plantation and headquarters became a destination for freedom seekers.
Illinois - Knox County Courthouse in Knoxville, Illinois was the site of several legal cases stemming from the 1842 escape of Susan Borders, her three children, and Hannah Morrison who were held in bondage in southern Illinois, drawing important attention to the existence of slavery in a “free” state.
Maryland - Lizzie Ambie Escape Site, a stop on the Harriet Tubman Byway in Dorchester County, is where Ambie was enslaved when she escaped with her husband and fourteen other freedom seekers in early October 1857.
- Lewis and Harriet Hayden House in Boston is where the Hayden family established themselves after they escaped from slavery in Kentucky and became key players in the abolitionist community in addition to providing food, shelter, and clothing to support other freedom seekers.
- Middlesex Mechanics Association Hall and Building in Lowell housed a barbershop which employed freedom seekers and provided opportunities for them to build new lives in a supportive community.
- Boston: An Underground Railroad Hub, created by National Parks of Boston, is a digital exploration of the city’s long history as a center of Underground Railroad activity.
- The Wampanog Tribe and the Escape of Randall Burton/Edgar Jones Marker on Martha’s Vineyard honors the role the tribe played in the 1854 escape of Randall Burton, also known as Edgar Jones.
The Bonine House Underground Railroad Research Library, operated by the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County in Vandalia, contains collections and research materials that document the area’s Underground Railroad history.
- Cass County Underground Railroad “Wax Museum in A Box” is an educational program that uses local history to teach fifth graders about the Underground Railroad, culminating in an annual performance in which students portray a figure that they have researched.
The Liberty Monument, overlooking the Ohio River—a border between slavery and freedom— erected in 1912, commemorates the Underground Railroad activity of Ripley area individuals.
- The Oviatt House in Richfield was the residence of Mason Oviatt who worked with famed abolitionist John Brown to transport five freedom seekers to Oberlin, Ohio.
South Carolina -
Bratton Plantation is where at least four freedom seekers, named Bob, Henry, Lewis, and James Williams, escaped.
- Stono Slave Rebellion at the Elliot and Rose Plantations was one of the several locations impacted after a growing group of freedom seekers began a Slave Insurrection to Spanish Florida, which ended in a deadly battle with a white militia at the Edisto River.
U.S. Virgin Islands - Leinster Bay Waterfront is where at least one hundred freedom seekers escaped from the Danish island of St. John’s across one mile of ocean to the British island of Tortola between 1834 and 1848.
Many Network to Freedom listings are privately owned and not open to the public. If the listing is not open to the public, privacy of the listing site and owner is requested.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Last updated: April 23, 2021