NEXT is looking back on the key role Michigan played in securing freedom for those seeking asylum from slavery.

The Underground Railroad was given this title because of it’s need for secrecy. Terms like “conductor” (code for people providing help) and “depot” (code for a place of safety) supported the theme. As people found their way north, they would rely on the conductors to keep them safe during the daytime, and then move on to the next designated depot on the underground railroad at night. All types of locations - small towns, farms and cities – wherever freedom and equality for all was actively pursued helped people escape. Every type of structure was found valuable whether a one room schoolhouse or someone’s home, barn, community center or church.

There were several depots across Michigan from the southwest, west, central and southeast with the last stop of Detroit, known by the code name “midnight”. Once there, the Second Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in Detroit, was one of many that were instrumental in hiding people until they were able to make the journey over the river and into Canada. The church provided sanctuary for 29 years. Tours of the church are conducted by members of the Detroit Underground Railroad Historical Society (DUHRS). You can visit Second Baptist Church of Detroit and click on Underground Railroad for more details.

To see verifiable underground railroad connections in Michigan, visit the interactive map on the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources site