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Great Lakes Essential Resources: Underground Railroad

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2024 12:23 PM

The network of safe houses and escape routes that is helped free thousands of enslaved people is known as the Underground Railroad. The abolitionists and former slaves that ran the Underground Railroad helped runaway slaves cross to Canada via Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Captains of "Freedom Ships" are believed to have played an important role in helping stowaways escape, such as on the schooner Home

(Sources: Great Lakes GuideNiagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Wisconsin Shipwrecks)

Maps Showing Underground Railroad Crossings In Vicinity of Great Lakes

antique map of united states with shading and states drawn 

Federal Writer's Project, Underground Railroad Map of the United States, ca. 1838-1860 (1941). Image Source: Library of Congress


colorful contemporary map with red arrows showing underground railroad routes

National Geographic Map Society, The Underground Railroad (2011). Image Source: National Geographic


map of US and Canada with red lines showing crossings to Canada

Wilbur Henry Siebert. "Underground" Routes to Canada: Showing the Lines of Travel of Fugitive Slaves (1896). Image Source: Toronto Public Library

monument of 4 adults and baby in boat

Freedom Crossing monument in Lewiston, New York (2021). Image Source: Personal Photos

Freedom Ships