In this website, the Brooklyn Historical Society, Weeksville Heritage Center, and Irondale Ensemble Project present the history of Brooklyn from 1783 to 1865. ‘In Pursuit of Freedom’ displays rare and never before seen archival materials such as newspapers, diaries, personal letters, pamphlets, city directories, census records, and broadsides to tell the story of lesser known people and places of the Underground Railroad and Brooklyn’s abolition movement. The visually stunning digital collection contains an array of interactive resources for all ages, from students to scholars and teachers.
The International Underground Railroad Memorial consists of two bronze sculptures by African American artist Ed Dwight. “The Gateway to Freedom,” below Detroit’s Hart Plaza, depicts freedom seekers being directed across the Detroit River. “The Tower of Freedom” is situated across the Detroit River in Windsor’s Civic Esplanade, and represents African Americans newly arrived into “The Queen’s Domain” of freedom from slavery.
James Caesar Anthony Smith was a freeman who lived in Richmond, Virginia. He and his white abolitionist employer sealed Henry “Box” Brown in a crate and shipped him to Philadelphia. After fleeing Virginia, Smith used the famous escape to earn a living. He and Brown partnered to perform songs about the escape. In 1850 Smith was almost captured by slave catchers, prompting the duo to relocate to Liverpool, England where they continued to perform and, at least once, reenact the internationally famous escape.
James Miller McKim was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on November 14, 1810. In the summer of 1832, McKim reportedly came across William Lloyd Garrison’s “Thoughts on Colonization,” which convinced him that he should become an abolitionist. In 1836, Garrison and Theodore Weld chose him to tour the free states and “spread the gospel of emancipation.” After the tour, McKim moved to Philadelphia where he began working as the Publishing Agent of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and assumed editorial duties of the Pennsylvania Freeman. He un-boxed fugitive Henry “Box” Brown when Brown shipped himself to Philadelphia in a box to escape slavery. McKim remained active in abolitionism through the Civil War.
Shortly after the American Revolution, John Jay traveled to Britain to resolve outstanding issues within the Treaty of Paris. He worked with the British Prime Minister on issues of debt settlement, British withdrawal, trade agreements, and the fur trade. This meeting resulted in what became known as the Jay Treaty, in 1794. This treaty allowed British citizens, who remained in Michigan, to maintain all property including enslaved Africans and Native Americans.
Jermain Wesley Loguen was born Jarm Logue in Davidson County, Tennessee in 1813 to an enslaved mother named Jane and a white slave owner named David Logue. After being sold with his mother, Loguen fled slavery via Kentucky and Southern Indiana. He became a famed orator, African Methodist Episcopal Zion clergyman, and activist in New York’s antislavery movement. Loguen enrolled at the Oneida Institute in 1839 and decided to start a school dedicated to African American children nearby. By 1842 Loguen was ordained as an A.M.E. minister and began working as an itinerant preacher with support from the American Missionary Association. Originally a moral suasionist, he became more militant in the late 1850s.
John Brown was born in 1800 to deeply religious Owen and Ruth Brown. As a teenager, Brown witnessed his friend, an enslaved boy, be beaten severely. This event and his father’s fierce opposition to slavery influenced his passion for ending slavery in America. During the 1840s, Brown began to appeal more directly to black antislavery activists and share his ideas about the failures of “moral suasion.” Through his activities, he became acquainted with Frederick Douglas, George De Baptiste, William Lambert, William Webb and William C. Monroe. Brown gained notoriety in 1855 and 1856 for his role in the “Bleeding Kansas” border wars. He is most remembered for his raid on Harper’s Ferry on October 16, 1859.
John Zimmerman’s Greek Revival house in Union City, Michigan dates from about 1840. The house at 119 E. High Street was listed on the State Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is now a private residence. Zimmerman was a blacksmith from New York State who hid fugitive slaves in his home.
Orphaned at a young age, John Mercer Langston grew up to become a lawyer, politician, and protector of runway slaves. Langston was the child of a white slave owner and formerly enslaved woman named Lucy Jane Langston; both died in 1834, forcing Langston and his two brothers to move to Ohio. He enrolled at Oberlin College in 1844. From the late 1840s and into the 1860s, Langston participated in the black convention movement, often delivering speeches on issues of equality and voting. In 1855, he became the first black elected official in the nation when he won the race for township clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio. In 1890, he became the first black Congressman from Virginia.
John P. Parker was born in 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia, to a white man and a black woman. When he was only eight years old, he was chained to another slave and forced to march to Richmond so that he could be sold on the auction block. He eventually purchased his freedom and started a foundry in Ripley, Ohio. He made many journeys into Kentucky to help enslaved people escape, thus earning a reputation as a troublemaker. When pro-slavery whites placed a bounty on his head, Parker burned all records of his daring activities.