Underground Railroad history in Buffalo-Niagara

Learn about Underground Railroad history in Buffalo-Niagara during Black History Month

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Published in Family Fun Canada in January 2017

Do your kids know who Harriet Tubman was? How about Frederick Douglass? Or William Still? These are some of the heroic ‘conductors’ of the Underground Railroad, the celebrated route to freedom for an estimated 50,000 African-Americans who escaped slavery by travelling along a network of safe homes and hideouts to freedom in Canada.

Visit Buffalo-Niagara in New York state during February’s Black History Month to learn more about the Underground Railroad, one of the most significant social movements in history, when blacks and whites worked together to actively oppose the federal laws that condoned slavery.

The Niagara River that divides Canada and the U.S. was a major crossing point for slaves. Before the construction of the first suspension bridge in 1848, the only option they had was to cross the river by rowboat under the cover of night or climb aboard ferries and steamboats operated by sympathetic captains. Some risked their lives by swimming across the river in a desperate attempt to make it into Canada.

You can learn about the significance of this crossing point - and the famous Tubman, known as “the Moses of her people” for guiding fugitive slaves into the “Promised Land”- as well as many lesser known “conductors” who played a pivotal role helping slaves cross the border - at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center’s free exhibit, Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara.

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