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Monday, February 13, 2012

Re-Introducing The Discover Syracuse Freedom Trail

 Cross-posted from My Central New York

Re-Introducing The Discover Syracuse Freedom Trail 
by Samuel D. Gruber

In July 2007, while President of the Preservation Association of Central New York, I had the privilege of unveiling with then-Mayor Matt Driscoll and others the 11-sign Freedom Trail through parts of the City of Syracuse designed to commemorate and teach the important history of Underground Railroad, Abolitionist and African-American historic and cultural sites in the city. Syracuse was a center of the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad.  The famous Jerry Rescue had already been commemorated in a striking monument on Clinton Square erected in 1990, but there was little else to tell the story of people and places throughout Syracuse.

The Discover Syracuse Freedom Trail project was a partnership of the City of Syracuse and the Preservation Association of Central New York and celebrates momentous events in the Syracuse that took place mostly between 1830 and 1860. The signs also remember abolitionists – white and black -who helped make Syracuse a center of the anti-slavery movement in America. Individuals commemorated included Jermain and Caroline Loguen, Prince Jackson, Samuel May, George Vashon, Thomas Leonard, Stephen Smith, Hamilton White, George and Rebecca Barnes, William “Jerry” Henry, James and Mary Baker, and many others. The primary research and much of the writing for the project was done by esteemed historian Judith Wellman.

Syracuse, NY.  September 2006 unveiling of design for Freedom Trail signs. Parks Commissioner Pat Driscoll, PACNY President Sam Gruber and members of the Network to Freedom.

Syracuse, NY.  July 2007 unveiling of  Freedom Trail signs.  PACNY past-president JAE Evangelisti, Councilman Van Robinson, Mayor Matt Driscoll, PACNY President Samuel Gruber and others.

Syracuse, NY.  July 2007 unveiling of  Freedom Trail signs.  PACNY president Samuel Gruber, Parks Commissioner Pat Driscoll and Glen Lewis, Parks Department project coordinator.

I'm afraid that these signs are still too-little known, and that those who do know them now take them for granted.  It took a lot of research and hard work by many people (mostly volunteers) to create this project - and now, during Black History Month I want to remind people of its existence.  It was mean, too, to be only the beginning.  There are still more places to mark, and this trail can be and should be the basis of a local history curriculum for schools and civic, community and church groups. 

I look forward to walking and biking the full Freedom Trail route when the weather warms up.  

Read the entire post about all the sites and signs here, and see pictures.

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