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

  • 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
  • Tim Gleisner, Lansing, Library of Michigan
  • 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 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.

Thursday Evening Virtual Presentations

This program kicked off with weekly virtual presentations in September, to commemorate International Underground Railroad Month. They took place via Zoom. Detail program descriptions and links to watch recordings of the sessions are below: .

  • Sept. 9 - 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. Watch the session recording on Vimeo. 
  • Sept. 16 - 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. Watch the session recording on Vimeo.
  • Sept. 23 - 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." Watch the session recording on Vimeo.
  • Sept. 30 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 Emeritis 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." Watch the session recording on Vimeo.
Annual Heritage Gathering

The annual day-long conference program took place.on Saturday, October 2, 2021 at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. The following sessions were recorded and will be available in late October. 

  • Resources for the Study of the Underground Railroad at the Clements Library by Paul Erikson
  • Crossing Borders: Piloting an International School Curriculum for the Underground Railroad by Clarissa Codrington
  • An Odawa Tale about Michigan's Underground Railroad by Roy E. Finkenbine
  • Freedom is the Foundation: Five Black Detroit Institutions That Come From the Underground Railroad by Jamon Jordan
  • Living in Plain Sight by Laurie Perkins

2021 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 otherwise, all meetings are held in the Commission Room (fifth floor, east wing) in the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing and begin at 11 a.m. Meetings are open to the public.

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.‚Äč

  • October 8
  • December 17

Commission Documents

Programs and Initiatives

Updated 08/27/2021