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Michigan's Underground Railroad

Monument in Detroit depicts the Gateway to Freedom and features a bronze sculpture of six Underground Railroad travelers awaiting transport to Canada

Michigan's Underground Railroad

Michigan's role in the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was not a physical railroad. It was a network of people across racial identities who helped people fleeing enslavement. This network was called “underground” because it was top secret, and “railroad” because terms like “conductor” and “depot” were used as codes for helpers and safe places.

Many towns in Michigan were part of the Underground Railroad. There are endless accounts about our state’s importance to this secret network that aided thousands of people on their journey to freedom. Conductors hid freedom seekers in their homes and barns during the day. At night, freedom seekers would go to a depot in the next town. For many, Detroit was the last stop before making their way to a free life in Canada, but a number stayed in Michigan and started their new lives.

Map of Michigan's Freedom Trail

Take a virtual tour of the Underground Railroad in Michigan - also known as the "Freedom Trail" - with this interactive map.

Michigan has 24 sites highlighting notable people and places that were part of the Underground Railroad story in Michigan. These sites bring a wealth of information to highlight not only the sites’ history and role in the Underground Railroad, but also the expression of civil rights.

View the interactive map

This material is based up on work assisted by a grant from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), funded by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASALH or the Department of the Interior.

The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission

The Michigan Freedom Trail Commission is a governor-appointed commission with the sole purpose of preserving, interpreting and promoting Michigan’s Underground Railroad history. The commission is dedicated to telling the stories through conferences, videos, signage, nominations and more.

Learn about the commission