For many states, September represents International Underground Railroad Month. In 2019, The State of Maryland proclaimed September as International Underground Railroad Month. In 2020, the states Maryland and Michigan were trailblazers in the effort to include more states in this celebration, working with the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom to connect with verified Underground Railroad sites, facilities, and programs from across the United States.
September was chosen to represent International Underground Railroad Month because it was the month that two of the most well known freedom seekers and Underground Railroad operatives, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, escaped from slavery.
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Network to Freedom Events
Join us on Wednesday, September 22 at 2:00 p.m. EDT, where Historian Caleb McDaniel will join us to discuss his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America. The book deals with the history of the reverse Underground Railroad. It tells the story of Henrietta Wood, a formerly enslaved woman who, in the twilight of Reconstruction, won the largest known sum ever awarded by a U.S. court in restitution for slavery. Although she was born in northern Kentucky and enslaved there and in Louisiana until she was nearly thirty years old, in 1853 Wood was living as a free woman in Cincinnati when she was kidnapped, taken to them South, and reenslaved. How did she survive slavery, twice, and later hold a powerful former enslaver to account? Where does her story fit in the longer history of reparations claims? And what does it tell us about debates over reparations today? What difference did the victory make for Wood and her descendants? At a time of increased public interest in the history of slavery, Wood's story offers important lessons about the impact restitution can make and about the limited power of payment alone.
This program is hosted in partnership with Boone County Public Library, a facility on the Network to Freedom.
Advanced Registration is required. To learn more, please see our event calendar.
In partnership with the National Park Service and the Embassy of Canada, The Wilson Center’s Canada Institute is commemorating International Underground Railroad Month through a panel discussion between historians, scholars, and descendants on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The panel will address the importance of the Underground Railroad in both Canadian and American history, the relevance of this history today, and the lasting legacy of Freedom Seekers. Learn more.
Special Programming by Network to Freedom Members
The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and the Michigan History Center, in partnership with the William L. Clements Library, are pleased to announce the 2021 Heritage Gathering schedule. This year's program kicks off with weekly virtual presentations in September, to commemorate International Underground Railroad Month. Save the date for these programs, which run 7 - 8:30 p.m. They are free and will take place via Zoom.
- September 9: The 1847 Michigan Slave Rescues, Introduction. Deanda Johnson, Midwest Regional Coordinator of the Network to Freedom of the National Park Service, and Bridget Stryker and staff of the Boone County (Kentucky) Library, will introduce and provide background to the four Michigan slave rescues in 1847 that grabbed national attention and angered slaveholders and their political allies in the upper South. Kentucky and Missouri slaveholders had become increasingly concerned about the freedom seekers fleeing to Michigan and decided to take action by going there and reclaiming their human property.
- September 16: The Crosswhite and Robert Cromwell Cases. Debian Marty will discuss the Crosswhite rescue in Marshall and Roy E. Finkenbine will discuss the Robert Cromwell rescue in Detroit. Marty is Professor Emerita of Humanities and Communication at California State University, Monterey Bay. Finkenbine is Professor of History and Director of the Black Abolitionist Archive at the University of Detroit Mercy. Both were contributors to A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland.
- September 23: The Kentucky Raid and John Felix White. Two more of the 1847 slave rescues with be discussed. Veta Smith Tucker will discuss the Kentucky Raid in Cass County and Carol Mull will discuss the John Felix White rescue at the convergence of Lenawee, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. Tucker is retired Professor of English and African American Studies and Director of the Kutsche Office of Local History at Grand Valley State University, the author of The Kentucky Raid: A Twenty-First Century History, and co-editor of A Fluid Frontier. Mull is the author of The Underground Railroad in Michigan.
- September 30: The Impact of the 1847 Michigan Slave Rescues and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Richard Blackett will discuss how the four Michigan slave rescues in 1847 prompted slaveholders and their political allies in Kentucky and Missouri to push for the harsh Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Blackett is the Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and the author of The Captive's Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery.
September 7, 2021, 7:00pm EDT: Chasing Destiny: An Homage to Them that Said, "No." Bridget Jones, Director of Equitable Partnerships at Belle Meade Historic Site, will celebrate the numerous forms of resistance to American chattel slavery by the enslaved through a detailed exploration of Tennessee runaway ads and the stories behind them.
September 14, 2021, 7:00pm EDT: The Long Tradition of Black Military Service in the Spanish Southeast. Because much of U.S. history is written from English language sources, several centuries of military service by Africans and their descendants in the Spanish Southeast are relatively unknown. Drawing on Spanish manuscript sources and archaeological discoveries, this lecture by Dr. Jane Landers, Gertrude Conway Vanderbilt Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, will fill in some of that missing history.
September 16, 2021, 7:00pm EDT: "I Ain't Got Long to Stay Here: Nashville as a Gateway to Freedom," by Dr. Learotha Williams Jr., Professor of History at Tennessee State University. For the many African Americans entering Nashville in chains from well-established slave systems on the eastern seaboard, their arrival often preceded more difficult and violent forms of the institution further South and West. Freedom-seeking African Americans also made their way to Nashville during that period, transforming the city into a site that would become a major point of departure to the North and ultimately freedom.
Fort Negley is listed as a site on the Network to Freedom.
The Maryland Park Service, National Park Service, and the National Council for the Traditional Arts are proud to offer a free performance by the Savoy Family Cajun Band on Thursday, September 9 at 3pm under the pavilion at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park (Stop #13 along the Tubman Byway).
The Savoy Family Cajun Band, one of Cajun music’s most recognizable families, shares an inspiring passion for their culture, from accordion-driven house party two-steps to timeless French ballads and twin fiddles. The group features legendary Cajun musician and accordion builder Marc Savoy and his wife and musical partner Ann, as well as their sons Joel and Wilson, award-winning musicians in their own right—a veritable all-star Cajun band.
Cajun music is rooted in the traditions of the French-speaking Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755 and found refuge in the bayous of southwest Louisiana. The Savoy family is known for their central role in nurturing Cajun culture. Each of their performances seamlessly integrates a lesson in the history of this unique American art form, demonstrating the family’s determination, as Marc has famously said, to not simply be performers but rather “to live the Cajun culture and be Cajuns.”
The event is free of charge for the public and seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center is located at 4068 Golden Hill Rd, Church Creek, Maryland 21622. For more info, contact 410-221-2290.
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will host a special 45-minute ranger-led program exploring the “fugitive” status of enslaved African Americans from North Georgia families which lived in and around present-day Chickamauga Battlefield. This program begins at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center, then participants will caravan to the Alexander House site, off Alexander’s Bridge Road. Water is recommended and chairs are welcome for this program as well.
Although Walker and Catoosa counties did not have the enslaved population density of many central or coastal Georgia counties, the human depravity associated with the institution of slavery nevertheless oozed into the North Georgia countryside. In fact, the largest enslaver in Catoosa County, Georgia, according to the 1860 Slave Schedule, lived within the current boundary of Chickamauga Battlefield. However, upon closer examination, 5 of the 35 enslaved people owned by John P. Alexander were listed as “fugitives from the state.” What does this phrase mean? Where did these “fugitives” go, and how did they get there? These questions and others will be examined as part of the park’s participation in International Underground Railroad Month.
Join Josiah Henson Museum and Park for their Josiah Henson Community Celebration on Sunday, September 12 from 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. EDT!
FREE day of family fun, including activities, musical performances, and reenactors
No tickets are required. Please park at Wall Local Park.
• Musical performances to remember our heroes
• Re-enactments to reflect on our past and look towards a hopeful future
• Participate in Peace Pinwheels demonstration on the grounds and portray how you plan to bring peace to the world
The New Philadelphia Association will be proudly celebrating the 202nd anniversary of the day Free Frank McWorter bought his own freedom on September 13, 1819. Free Frank Freedom Day will be held on Monday, September 13, 2021.
The festivities will begin at 2 PM at the historic New Philadelphia town site northeast of Barry, Illinois, on County Highway 2. The program will include a welcome greeting by Phil Bradshaw, NPA president, and remarks by McWorter family descendants, community leaders and historians. Please feel free to come early to tour the site along the walking path, guided by augmented reality technology and visit Lucy’s Garden.
The program will then move to the nearby town of Barry, where Brigadier General Donald L. Scott (retired) will address the audience at the Historic Barry Baptist Church at 900 Main Street at 4 PM. Donald Scott is the author of Recipient of Grace, published in 2015. Seating is limited, so come early.
On September 13, 1819 Free Frank McWorter purchased his own freedom from slavery, two years after purchasing freedom for his wife Lucy – all with funds earned through his own initiative. In 1836 Free Frank made history as the first African American to plat and legally register a town in our country. With proceeds from lot sales in New Philadelphia, Frank subsequently purchased freedom for as many as 15 family members. New Philadelphia developed as a racially diverse community.
New Philadelphia is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated a National Historic Landmark, and is included in the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.
Advanced registration is required. To register, call Oldham County History Center (502-222-0726). The J. C. Barnett Library and Archives, a facility in the Network to Freedom, is part of Oldham County History Center.
On September 23 from 7-8:30pm CDT, join the Levi and Catherine Coffin House to learn about the story of Eliza Harris.Harris, along with her child, were two of thousands enslaved in Kentucky who escaped hoping to find freedom somewhere north of the Ohio River. Her 1838 journey sheds light on the experience of escaping slavery by relying on the Underground Railroad. The Indiana State Museum and Historic Site’s Joanna Hahn will walk participants through Eliza’s potential journey to freedom, detailing specific stories filled with both historic provenance and myth, breaking down a story that inspired a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Advanced Registration is required. This program is being conducted through the Levi and Catherine Coffin House and Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. The Levi and Catherine Coffin House is a site on the Network to Freedom. More information.
In 2016, the J. Chilton Barnett Library & Archives of the Oldham County History Center was designated by the National Park Service on the National Underground Railroad Network. The building was once the home of James and Amanda Railey Mount who built and lived in the home from 1840 to 1888. James Mount was the local jailor for Oldham County and Amanda Mount’s great aunt, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was Thomas Jefferson’s mother. The Mounts were slave holders and their artifacts included slave ownership papers, bounty hunter documents and printed ads for slave escapes.
In Spring 2021, the Oldham County History Center designated a room in the J. Chilton Barnett Library & Archives as the Mount Parlor to educate visitors about the activities of the Mount family and enslaved people that lived in the household. Local interior designer Breck Morgan has carefully selected period furniture and artifacts from the museum collection, that help interpret the culture of families that lived in Oldham County during the Antebellum era. On September 25 at 11:00am EDT, the Mount Parlor will be dedicated and opened as a new exhibit at the Oldham County History Center. Learn More.
The J. C. Barnett Library and Archives, a facility on the Network to Freedom, is part of Oldham County History Center.
On Sunday, September 26th, we invite you to visit the swamp as we commemorate the freedom seekers that used this landscape as a refuge from slavery. Though we are working on a more permanent plan to interpret this history at Beidler Forest, we will have temporary signage along the boardwalk about the Underground Railroad and the Four Holes Swamp designation on September 26th. Advanced registration for this free day is suggested but not required. To sign up, click here.
In 2020, eleven states and other entities proclaimed September as International Underground Railroad Month. Join past participants in this commemoration to learn more about the initiative and begin to prepare for September 2021.
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Events by Network to Freedom Members
"Thirty Days of Stories on the Underground Railroad" is a series of podcasts series created in celebration of September as International Underground Railroad Month. The Oldham County History Center provided most of the stories and each day a selected person read a story that included a short introduction of the reader and their interest in history. The podcast is an opportunity for the History Center to help promote tourism and education about an important era of American history.
“In July we put out a call for readers and we have been overwhelmed by the positive response”, according to Dr. Nancy Theiss, Executive Director of the Oldham County History Center. “We have graduate students, school teachers, professors, authors, history center volunteers, directors of museums and actors who have volunteered as podcast readers and that represent not only Kentucky but include readers from Indiana, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, Georgia, England and Canada.”
The Oldham Podcast Network is supported by the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce.
To learn more about the Podcasts, please visit Oldham County History Center’s website.
Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area created a host of virtual programming options so that visitors near and far can learn more about the Underground Railroad and Network to Freedom Sites in Kansas and Missouri. Each video connects visitors to experts on each Network to Freedom Site in Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.
Recordings of the presentations can be found on Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area's YouTube Page.The virtual presentations included:
- African American Quilt Museum & Marla's Quilts
- Battle of Island Mound
- Topeka's Constitution Hall
- Dawn of Day - Stories from the Underground Railroad
- Fort Scott
- Grover Barn
- The Ritchie House
- Watkins Museum of History
- "The Western Routes" Wabaunsee Sites
You can also learn about the Underground Railroad in Kansas and Missouri, by using the Underground Railroad Virtual Tour on the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area's free app.
The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and its partners, the Wayne County Community College District and Michigan History Center, held their third annual Underground Railroad Heritage Gathering as a series of virtual presentations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in September 2020.
2020's events, which were hosted using the Zoom platform, included panel discussions, local research, tips for researching local Underground Railroad history and more.
To watch recordings of the sessions, please visit the Michigan History Center’s Vimeo Page.
The Carnegie Center for Art and History, home to the Network to Freedom Program "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad," and their partners released special programming opportunities in light of International Underground Railroad Month. For more information, please visit their website.
This Webinar, conducted July 1, 2020, provides context for International Underground Railroad Month in September. Hosts include Diane Miller, Heather Ersts, and Roy Finkenbine.
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Underground Railroad Experiences
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Last updated: January 3, 2022