An affluent landowner and businessman, Gerrit Smith used his wealth to advance the cause of abolition. Smith was born into a wealthy landowning family on March 6, 1797 in Utica, Oneida County, New York. In the early 1830s, Smith was a nominal supporter of the American Colonization Society but soon became a strong proponent of abolition. In 1853 he became a member of Congress as a U.S. Representative on the Free-Soil ticket. Smith proved his dedication to radical abolition in his political process but also in the ways he used his wealth. In 1846 he started a community for free African Americans, providing upwards of 3,000 African Americans 50-acre plots of land in Franklin and Essex counties, near North Elba, in northern New York.
This website, created by the Gilder Lehrman Center, provides tools to develop a deeper understanding of slavery and its role in the development of the modern world. While the Center's primary focus has been on scholarly research, it also seeks to bridge the divide between scholarship and public knowledge by opening channels of communication between the scholarly community and the wider public. The website features primary source documents, scholarly essays, visual documents, and educational materials.
In 1847, David Giltner traveled to Marshall, Michigan to capture Adam and Sarah Crosswhite and their four children on behalf of his father, Francis Giltner. White and black members of the community refused to let the family be taken. Later that year, David Giltner and Francis Troutman, who accompanied Giltner, filed a civil suit for $2,752—the supposed value of the Crosswhites. After two trials, Giltner was awarded $1,926. The story and subsequent trial spread like wildfire throughout abolitionist circles.
In 1991, the Greater Battle Creek Program, along with the Kellogg Foundation (Battle Creek, Michigan), convened a committee of Calhoun County residents and Foundation employees to erect a more significant symbol to honor the Underground Railroad history of Battle Creek. This sculpture, which was installed in October, 1993 near the original site of the Erastus Hussey House, is the nation's largest monument to the Underground Railroad.
Born Araminta Ross in 1820, Harriet Tubman became one of the most legendary figures of the Underground Railroad. She fled slavery alone in 1849 but frequently returned to Maryland to rescue more than sixty enslaved men and women. Her actions agitated Maryland slave owners so much that they raised a $40,000 reward for her capture. After moving to Auburn, New York she became active in the abolitionist movement. During the Civil War she worked as a cook for contrabands and a spy for the Union Army.
Born enslaved in 1815, Henry Bibb took his freedom when he ran away to Detroit in 1837. He returned to Kentucky to rescue his wife and daughter but was recaptured and sold further south. He escaped bondage in Louisiana but was unable to save his family and never saw them again. He returned to Detroit, becoming active in Detroit’s Anti-Slavery Society and the Colored Vigilance Committee and befriending William C. Monroe and William Lambert. He published a narrative of his life as a slave and moved to Canada in 1850 to ensure his safety. In 1851 he founded The Voice of the Fugitive abolitionist newspaper and died three years later at the age of 39.
After his wife was sold further south, Henry Brown decided to take his freedom by shipping himself in a crate from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A black carpenter built Brown a box, and an anti-slavery activist addressed the box to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. After 27 hours and 350 miles in the box, Brown arrived in Philadelphia. News of his miraculous journey traveled fast and Brown became an active abolitionist, touring New England to tell his story.
As a child, Henry Highland Garnet escaped slavery in Maryland with his family on the Underground Railroad. By 1825 the family was living in a predominately black neighborhood in New York City. Three years later, Maryland slave catchers attempted to recapture the family but were unsuccessful. After a mob tried to burn down the Noyes Academy, Garnet enrolled at the Oneida Institute and graduated in 1840. He helped found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and began working with the Liberty Party. He publically challenged Frederick Douglass on his position on moral suasion and traveled to Europe to spread his message. In 1881, he was appointed U.S. minister and consular to Liberia.
Known as the location of the Kellogg Cereal Company, Battle Creek, Michigan, was also the chosen home of abolitionist Sojourner Truth and a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Originally two separate organizations, the Historical Society of Battle Creek and the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek merged in 1999 to create Heritage Battle Creek Historical Society. Heritage Battle Creek’s Research Center provides visitors with access to an extensive collection on Sojourner Truth and UGRR history. The related Kimball House Museum’s Sojourner Truth Exhibit Room contains one of the largest collection of images and artifacts about the nationally famous formerly enslaved abolition leader in the country, including her only known signature. The rich history of Battle Creek is captured in the organization’s website, which displays historical images of Battle Creek from 1830 to present.
Hiram Wilson was born in 1803 in Ackworth, New Hampshire. He attended Lane Theological Seminary and participated in the legendary antislavery debates at the school. Like his classmate Theodore Weld, he transferred to Oberlin College when Lane’s administration repressed abolitionist attitudes at the institution. In 1836, he moved to Toronto to spread the American Anti-Slavery Society’s abolitionist message. He remained in Canada until his death in 1864.