Freedom’s Railway Ran Through Detroit

A few interesting facts about Midnight, code word for Detroit, which served as a final stop before freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Gateway to Freedom monument commemorates Detroit’s important role as a stop on the Underground Railroad
  • Thousands of former slaves found freedom in Ontario, Canada via Detroit thanks to the tireless efforts of local abolitionists such as William Lambert, William Web, George DeBaptiste, Henry Bibb, Seymour Finney, Luther Beecher, and Farmer Underwood. Descendants of some of these once well-known figures still reside in the area.
  • Second Baptist Church was founded in 1836 by thirteen self-emancipated slaves. Located today on Monroe Avenue in Greektown, the church became known as the Croghan Street Station of the Underground Railroad. (Monroe Avenue was formerly Croghan Street).

    Second Baptist Church of Detroit was known as the Croghan Street Station of the Underground Railroad
  • While the famous conductor Harriet Tubman never traveled to Detroit, other leading abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and John Brown did. After speaking at City Hall and Second Baptist Church, Frederick Douglass ventured over to the home of William Webb for an anti-slavery meeting. There, he met up with the fiery abolitionist John Brown who was in town raising funds and support for his proposed siege of the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry and armed slave revolt. Read more here. A historic marker located where Congress and St. Antoine intersect commemorates this significant event.
    Although Douglass didn’t support Brown’s plan, he and others present at this meeting had to flee the country when Brown was arrested.

    Marker denotes William Webb house where abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown met while in Detroit.
  • His pro-slaveowner stance may have contributed to the presidential defeat of Lewis Cass, one of Michigan’s most prominent political figures of the 19th century. Cass, Michigan’s second territorial governor and our nation’s 22nd Secretary of State (+ many other political posts) was defeated by the Whig candidate Zachary Taylor in the presidential election of 1848.
  • United States senator Jacob M. Howard co-authored the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution. The 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery. The 14th and 15th Amendments granted citizenship to former slaves and free blacks and the right to vote. The meaning of the 14th Amendment is widely debated today in terms of granting citizenship to immigrants. Howard, who resided in Detroit at the corner of Hasting (now I-375) and Larned Streets is buried at Elmwood Cemetery. The 13th Amendment is inscribed on his tombstone. His biography published on the cemetery’s website reads: “Howard left permanent imprints of his work in the Laws of the United States. Few men, other than the Founding Fathers of our country, have had the opportunity to make their beliefs felt on important Amendments to the Federal Constitution.”


See history come to life on the Incredible Journey to Midnight lantern tours where actors – portraying historical giants of this era – tell the story of this pivotal time in American history.

2018 dates are July 28, August 25, and September 29.

Visit for details and tickets.

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