Detroit Underground Railroad Hand-Bill 1853

Underground Railroad Hand Bill 1853

The underground railroad (UGRR) hand-bill below appears in the book, “History of Detroit and Michigan.”  Click the hand-bill to read about fugitive slave law and efforts of UGRR workers to transport fugitive slaves to freedom.

The William Webb Residence

Above is the William Webb residence located at 185 E. Congress St. between St. Antoine and Hastings in Detroit, MI. Mr. Webb was a black grocer who sold produce and other goods from the first floor of his home. Having a fair completion with angular features, Mr. Webb was able to blend in at various Detroit saloons to eaves drop on conversations, thereby ascertaining the plans of slave catchers. Mr. Webb was a member of the “African-American Mysteries: The Order of the Men of Oppression,” founded by William Lambert.  This organization concealed, protected and transported fugitive slaves from Detroit, MI into Canada. On March 12, 1859, John Brown and Frederick Douglass were allowed to conduct a meeting at Mr. Webb’s home regarding the Harper’s Ferry raid.

Sources | Historical Marker at the site of the William Webb residence: Google Maps.
William Webb Residence Photo: Detroit Public Library | Digital Collections | Burton Historical Collection, Accessed: February 11, 2009. John Brown Photo: Google Books. Frederick Douglass Photo: Google Books. Second Baptist Church Rendering: Google Books. Finney Barn Photo : Google Books.


About C. Rae White

I'm a proud 6th generation Detroiter, a creative who loves working with my hands and a fashion fanatic with a thing for shoes, bags and jewelry. I'm a family researcher who loves discovering the details of my ancestors lives. Thanks for stopping by!
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3 Responses to Detroit Underground Railroad Hand-Bill 1853

  1. Chocolate Matters says:

    I am not sure about other states but children in NY take a social studies exam in which they have to analyze and answer questions based on a document like the one above. I think especially for children of color to see such a document they would need to realize that they shouldn’t take education for granted because it wasn’t too long ago when children their age were thought of as mere "merchandise" to be auctioned off like cattle.

  2. C. Rae White says:

    You’re right! Our young people need to know that it is on the shoulders of our slave forefathers that we stand. We should take advantage of everything that they wrought for us through their toil, blood, sweat and tears. I really don’t understand the current thinking in the black community that if you love learning, reading books or get good grades that you’re trying to be white and that you’re not down or cool. Why do they think it’s right/acceptable to be stupid when slaves risked their lives to learn to read and write?

    Now, I want you to take another look at the handbill. It mocks the slave auction handbills. It’s for the workers of the Underground Railroad in Detroit 1853. It’s a signal for them to safely assemble all hidden runaway slaves and any donations at the river’s edge, so that they can be transported over to Canada (Old Sandwich/Windsor/Amherstburg Ontario). This handbill shows the spirit and humor that the Underground railroad workers sometimes indulged in. At this time, a black man named George DeBaptiste (a freed slave) owned a steamship that transported goods from the port of Detroit to Canada. He would hide runaway slaves in the ship and take them to their freedom in Canada.

  3. Je says:

    I’ve never seen one of these before. Even though my parents were from the south, I was born and raised in Michigan. Hopefully, I’ll get to check out one the festivals this year.

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