Photo of Statue of an extended family of slaves getting ready to cross to the south side of the Detroit River, to Canada and freedom, in Detroit, Michigan

Weekly Gem #57 Heading south to freedom!

Published 1/31/2016


Location:  This 'hidden gem' is on the Riverwalk in Detroit, MI (see Clue Me! Map). There are many reasons this statue and its location are gems, and January 31st seems a good date share ... 151 years after the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress.

Imagine before that date that some guy considers you and your family to be his personal property, and the law of the land agrees.

That's not sitting well with you, so you decide to take your family and leave, on foot, traveling mostly by night, hiding out by day. It takes weeks and anywhere from 400 to 1000 miles. Even in northern states, federal law required that escaped slaves be captured and returned to ‘their owners,’ making Canada the ultimate destination.

This hidden gem marks the end of one underground railroad line. North to Detroit, then (a touch of irony) south to freedom. In Detroit, you’re a slave. Cross the river to Windsor, Canada, and you’re free.

The statue is interesting.

They would obviously travel light. Bring only what you can carry, be that food, water, or the baby.

The men are pointing to the destination (Windsor, Canada).

The kids behind them (additional pics below) are looking backwards beckoning others to hurry up and follow.

The expressions and body language convey both the dawning realization that freedom is at hand, and a continued realization that everything could still go south.

Next week we’ll explain how they got to this exact spot, which is an interesting story in and of itself.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Heading south to freedom!


Statue of an extended family of slaves getting ready to cross to the south side of the Detroit River, to Canada and freedom.

Why It's Interesting

The "underground railroad" was a series of places slaves could stop and rest, eat, and sleep during the hazardous journey to Canada and freedom. Detroit was the next to last stop, providing many places to wait in safety until they could be ferried across to Canada.


Villainous pickpockets vs. travelers. How can the traveler ever win?!? But now the hero steps in, with a lopsided grin. 130°® satchels are here to protect your good stuff.