The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom commemorates the stories of the men and women who risked everything for freedom and those who helped them. The Network to Freedom, through shared leadership with local, state, and federal entities, as well as interested individuals and organizations, offers programs and partnerships to commemorate and educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad—the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape. These acts of self-emancipation labeled enslaved individuals as “fugitives,” “escapees,” or “runaways,” but in retrospect “freedom seeker” is a more accurate description. Many freedom seekers began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, but each subsequent decade in which slavery was legal in the United States, there was an increase in active efforts to assist escape. For more information, visit the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom website.
You can join this year’s initiative to plan for International Underground Railroad Month. This initiative acknowledges the significance of the Underground Railroad, and all those involved, for its contribution to the eradication of slavery in the United States and as a cornerstone for a more comprehensive civil rights movement that followed. It honors the inspiring efforts of the people from around the world who have committed themselves to document, interpret, and share with the public the Underground Railroad through the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed the first International Underground Railroad Month in September 2019. This year, the Maryland Office of Tourism, Michigan Freedom Trail, and the Network to Freedom program are working to expand International Underground Railroad Month to multiple states, Canada, and the Caribbean, in September 2020.
Goals for International Underground Railroad Month 2020:
- Inspire the public to travel to Underground Railroad Sites to learn the history associated with individual sites and experience the mosaic of community, regional, and national stories of the Underground Railroad.
- Make International Underground Railroad Month a yearly event.
- 2020 goal is to have 7 states and 1 Canadian location participate. In 2021, grow to have 15 states and 3 Canadian locations participating.
How You Can Participate:
- Develop trip suggestions/tourism opportunities to promote UGRR sites in your region/state that will be posted on the NTF website.
- Develop programs–either on site or virtually–to promote and commemorate the UGRR.
- Identify NTF members that are open to the public and would like to participate in NTF passport program.
- Participate in social media campaign for International UGRR Month.
- Identify and share web-based content (video, virtual tours. etc.) that explores UGRR content to be included on NTF website.
- Identify and research the UGRR stories in your community. Contact the NTF coordinators to discuss future inclusion in the NTF.
Here in Maryland, our lead partner is Heather Ersts, Partnership and Outreach Manager, Maryland Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism. We encourage you to contact our office, [email protected], with your ideas for collaborations for this year’s initiative. Thanks!