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"Circle of Hope"

Rochester, New York

Underground Railroad Freedom Trail

By akwaaba: The Heritage Associates, Inc.

Over and again, they repeated the cryptic directions whispered by the farmer, the preacher, and the agent who sent them on from the last station.  Their goal was freedom; their beacon was a star - the North Star.  Nowhere did it shine brighter than in Rochester, New York, declared by Frederick Douglass to be the city where he would "always feel more at home" than "anywhere else in the country." 

The Underground Railroad... Rochester, Auburn and the Finger Lakes highlight the life and times of three historical figures who settled in western New York during the 19th century: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony-- recognized nationally for their abolitionist activities and for their outstanding contribution to achieving peace, freedom and equality in this country. Visit their homesteads, museums and gravesites that keep alive their heritage.  A talented cast of Rochester resident enactors bring them to life with compelling accounts of historical incidents, which allowed hundreds of fugitive people to pass through Rochester on-route to Canada and freedom.

Day One (Rochester: "River Stroll")

Walk the trails trod by footsore freedom-seekers in downtown Rochester and where the Erie Canal ferried runaways to the building in which Douglass published the North Star. Learn about Thomas James, who organized Rochester's historic AME Zion Church, after following the Erie Canal freedom ferry route.

Vivid reenactments highlight the lives of master agent and orator, Frederick Douglass, courageous Harriet A. Jacobs and Austin Steward, who was "twenty-two years a slave and more than forty a free man."

Visit the powerful, bronzed likeness of Douglass, the first public statue erected to honor an African American, located at the edge of the Highland Bowl in the historic Highland Park in southeast Rochester. Pay homage to Douglass at his gravesite in nearby Mt. Hope Cemetery, just a few short blocks from the park.

 Arrive at the hotel for R&R before dinner.

Enjoy dinner & beautiful scenery aboard the Sam Patch boat cruise on the Genesee River. Hear tales of the role these waterways played in the flight to freedom. This is a perfect time to enjoy the skyline of Rochester at night - especially the inspiring view of the Frederick Douglass- Susan B. Anthony Bridge.

Day Two: (Auburn, New York: "Freedom Trail, East")

After breakfast, head east for approximately 2 hours through rolling countryside on the NYS Thruway to Auburn, NY. Stories abound about runaways that came up the coast through Central New York's Underground Railroad.  Visit the Harriet Tubman Homestead and gravesite in Auburn and on to the home of Harriet's friend and benefactor, William Seward, Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln.  The Seward home was a "safe house" frequently visited by freedom seekers.

Enjoy a box lunch on the grounds of the Tubman Home.

Arrive at the hotel back in Rochester in the late afternoon for R& R before dinner.

Day Three (Rochester)

After breakfast, visit the interactive "Flight to Freedom" exhibit at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. Later in the morning, tour the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, a National Historic Landmark, and the Visitors Center adjacent to her home.  Stand in the parlor where Miss Anthony was arrested in 1872 for voting, and where Douglass and other leaders of the human rights movement often met.  Stroll to nearby Madison Park and touch the bronze sculpture of Anthony and Douglass sipping tea.

Depart Rochester or ...

Other sites to consider relative to the theme are the 19th century Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, New York, and neighboring towns and villages in the Genesee Valley and along the Seaway Trail and the Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail. 

Special summer time events include the Juneteenth and Rochester International Jazz Festivalsin June. The Maafa Day of Remembrance takes place on July 3rd. The Clarissa Street Reunion Festival brings families together for music, food and fun in August. The Blackstorytelling League of Rochester, Inc. presents its annual "Pass It On... Storytelling Festival" in October.  The Kwanzaa Coalition sponsors Rochester's annual Kwanzaa Celebration in December 26 - 31.