During the decades leading up to the American Civil War, Jackson was a hub and a haven for thousands fleeing slavery through a human network called the Underground Railroad. The secret system was composed of enslaved Americans who resisted slavery through flight, and activists who assisted them from the 1830s to 1865.
At least a dozen activists lived and worked in Jackson County. In addition, several freedom seekers passed through Jackson or chose to remain here, raising families. Many participants were motivated by the belief that God created all humankind with inherent dignity; others were motivated by economic, political and moral beliefs.
Our community is understandably proud of its role in this humanitarian enterprise, but how best to share this good news with others? Visit jacksonmiundergroundrailroad.com, a website created to serve as a one-stop shop for tourists, students, history buffs, and others wanting to know more about Jackson’s participation in the secret system. The website, launched December 2019, showcases maps, pictures of local agents, videos of pertinent events, and much more.
“The Evidence” page backs up Jackson’s claims and includes information on State and National designations. In fact, Jackson’s second State Historical Marker honoring the Underground Railroad will be unveiled in Bucky Harris Park at 11:30 a.m. on May 15, 2020.
The “Discover Jackson” page provides details about power point presentations and tour options, including step-on bus tour services and self-guided tours of local landmarks, thanks to an App created by Experience Jackson. The “Contact” pages offers follow-up information for inquiries.
If you prefer to read about the fascinating people, secret hiding places and near escapes connected to this system in greater detail, the “Read About It” page lists three book options that focus on Jackson County. All books reflect several years of research and travels throughout Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Canada.
In sum, this website is designed to serve as a magnet that pulls together reliable evidence in one place for those wanting to know more about Jackson’s ties to the Underground Railroad. The findings may pertain to people long gone, but the message of these historical figures still resonates today. Their examples remind us that faith, bravery and commitment can overcome obstacles, and that reconciliation is always possible. May you be inspired as you explore the many facets of the Underground Railroad in Jackson County.
By Linda Hass
Linda Hass is a local researcher, author and presenter specializing in the Underground Railroad. The Jackson native has written three books about the secret network, has applied for two state historical markers from the Michigan Historical Commission, and has applied for one designation from the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Starry Night Photo Courtesy Granger Graphic Design