Michigan Freedom Trail Commission

Underground Railroad monument in Battle Creek

The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission preserves, protects and promotes the rich legacy of the Underground Railroad and the antislavery movement in Michigan.

Commission Members

  • Melinda Babarskis, Lansing, Library of Michigan
  • Neil A. Barclay, Detroit, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
  • Amanda J. Campbell, Chair, Harrisville, knowledgeable in historic preservation
  • Rochelle E. Danquah, Farmington Hills, Senate Majority Leader
  • Dr. Angela D. Dillard, Ann Arbor, academic community knowledgeable in African American history
  • Roy E. Finkenbine, Livonia, academic community knowledgeable in African American history
  • Jamon Jordan, Detroit, actively involved in civil rights
  • Deidra E. Mayweather, Grand Rapids, general public
  • Robin Peebles, Lansing, Travel Michigan
  • Vivian L. Ritter, Battle Creek, local communities with significant UGRR presence
  • Priscilla D. Robinson, Detroit, member-at-large
  • Jason Young, Ann Arbor, academic community knowledgeable in African American history

4th Annual Heritage Gathering - September-October 2021

The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and the Michigan History Center, in partnership with the University of Michigan's Department of History and William L. Clements Library, held the fourth annual gathering for individuals, organizations and communities interested in our statewide Underground Railroad heritage in September and October 2021.

NEW! Visit The 1847 Michigan Slave Rescues Story Map, a project developed by Bridget Stryker in partnership with National Park Service Network to Freedom, Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and the Boone County (Ky.) Public Library.  The map highlights the stories of four of the fifteen slave rescues documented in 1847 and represents years of work by researchers combing meticulously through primary sources and first-person narratives.

Below are program descriptions and links to watch recordings of the weekly virtual presentations that were offered in September in commemoration of International Underground Railroad Month.

  • Introduction and Background to 1847 Michigan Slave Rescues
    Deanda Johnson, Midwest Regional Coordinator of the Network to Freedom of the National Park Service, and Bridget Stryker and staff of the Boone County (Ky.) Library, introduced and provided 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.
  • Crosswhite Case and Robert Cromwell
    Dr. Debian Marty discussed the Crosswhite rescue in Marshall and Dr. Roy E. Finkenbine discussed 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."
  • Kentucky Raid and John Felix White
    Veta Smith Tucker discussed the Kentucky Raid in Cass County and Carol Mull  discussed 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."
  • The impact of the 1847 Michigan slave rescues and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
    Richard Blackett discussed 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 Emeritus 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."

The following sessions were recorded at the annual day-long conference program held October 2, 2021, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

2022 Meeting Schedule

In its quest to discover and chronicle the legacy of the Underground Railroad in Michigan, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission holds quarterly meetings. Unless noted, all meetings are held in person at the Michigan Library and Historical Center in the Morris Learning Center (first floor, east wing); attendance via Zoom is also available. Meetings begin at 11 a.m. and are open to the public; agendas will be posted here in PDF format as they become available. The Michigan Library and Historical Center is located at 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing. The building and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard.

Commission Documents

Programs and Initiatives

Updated 01/14/2022