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September is International Underground Railroad Month

September marks the observance of International Underground Railroad Month, a significant period commemorating the efforts of abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Having escaped from slavery in Maryland in the month of September, both Tubman and Douglass chose to experience their newfound freedom in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. Both would settle in their respective hometowns – Douglass in Rochester and Tubman in Auburn – approximately 60 miles apart. These towns were the longest places of residence in their lives and became their final resting places.

Such historical connections give New York State its close ties to the Underground Railroad, a clandestine network that played a pivotal role in aiding slaves on their path to freedom. As a result, many abolitionists found a home in New York, and it became a refuge for those seeking liberation. While devoid of literal tracks and trains, the Underground Railroad featured an intricate network of individuals and safe houses that concealed its activity using railroad terminology and symbols. The operation was designed with utmost secrecy to best aid those fleeing the shackles of slavery.

As of today, Cayuga County is host to several places that share the legacy of the Underground Railroad and the individuals who made it possible. Here are some key destinations to visit: 

In addition to these key destinations tied to the Underground Railroad, there are some lesser-known stops that you should consider when exploring the area’s history. The region has been noted to have more than 100 documented connections to the Underground Railroad. Many of these secret stops around Cayuga County can be experienced through the free Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Tour app. The driving tours feature two routes that guide you through the journey of the Underground Railroad: the Auburn driving tour and the Cayuga County driving tour.