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Published: Tuesday, 1/28/2014

Underground Railroad presentation set Feb. 23 at Sylvania Historical Village


Northwest Ohio played a key role in the Underground Railroad, the system which enabled slaves to escape to freedom in the 1800s.

Angie Quinn, executive director of the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor, relates the experience of a slave on the path to a free world at the "Underground Railroad and Abolition in the Maumee Valley," a presentation at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Sylvania Historical Village, 5717 Main St.

“I think that one of the challenges with any community that talks about the Underground Railroad is focusing on what happened in your location," she said. "But you don’t know where someone came from to get to that point, where they went after that location. If you think about where we are in the Maumee Valley ... on the edge of the country, where freedom was just across the line, that it laid just across the border in Detroit.

I think it [the presentation] will underscore how important we were with people getting their freedom.”

In the mid-1800s,  that freedom was in Windsor, Canada, but many sought refuge in Detroit and Michigan, she said, which was friendlier to African Americans.

“If you got to Lake Erie, you could get a boat to where you needed to go,” she said.

She will talk about African American leadership during the 1850s in the Maumee River Valley, which touches on three states -- Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. 

Citing a 1850 census for Port Lawrence, which is where downtown Toledo is located today, there were about 220 African Americans living here, Ms. Quinn said.

“It’s Interesting most of them were boatmen, which is convenient for crossing people over," she explained. The number of African American farming communities in the area, she said, could indicate a strong cultural leadership.

Ms. Quinn has researched and written about the Underground Railroad, abolition, and reform movements. She will present a similar program in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Feb. 22 at Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Joy Armstrong, director of the Sylvania Historical Village, is a board member of the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor. She said the two organizations are partnering to bring more programming about the region to Sylvania residents.

The Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor's mission is  to preserve the area's historical, cultural, and natural legacy. Its members are spread across the three states.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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