Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara - Castellani Art Museum - Niagara University
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“When I found I had crossed that line I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything…and I felt as if I was in Heaven.”
- Harriet Tubman

About Freedom Crossing

Hear the stories. Discover the history. Experience the legacy at “Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara.”

The Niagara River was often the last crossing for people escaping slavery in America. From the early 1800s until the end of the Civil War in 1865, thousands of fugitive slaves passed through Buffalo Niagara on the Underground Railroad, as they traveled to freedom in Canada.

The interpretive center at the Castellani Art Museum, “Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara,” serves to tell this story through:

  • Historic photographs
  • Artifacts, including authentic shackles and historic documents
  • Books & real life stories
  • Video stations
  • Contemporary artwork

Brochures and maps will also lead you to Underground Railroad sites throughout the region.

“Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara” is part of the New York State Heritage Trails initiative. It was made possible through a grant from Heritage New York.

5 FAST FACTS About Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara

FACT #1:     Upstate New York became a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity, as escaping slaves made their way to crossing points along the Niagara River
FACT #2:    The escape routes were called “lines”. Safe houses were “stations.” Those who assisted the slaves were “conductors.” And fugitives were “freight.” 
FACT #3:    Escaping slaves faced an arduous journey, traveling mainly at night—on foot, in wagons, or by train or boat—to elude bounty hunters.
FACT #4:   Harriet Tubman led escaping slaves, including members of her own family, across the Suspension Bridge from Niagara Falls, NY to freedom in Ontario, Canada.
FACT #5:   Thomas Root, an Abolitionist from Pekin, NY had a special arrangement with one of the border guards at the bridge. Whenever Root used the coded message, “We have a load of Southern calico (cotton cloth),” he was allowed to cross the bridge without inspection.