Underground Railroad legacy in New York State
"Bundles of Wood" questions the Underground Railroad legacy in New York State, the clandestine network active up to the American Civil War, for the liberation of enslaved people from the slave South to the North abolitionist, in particular to Canada. The project was realized during the Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in 2017. New York State was home to many of the most significant events and participants in the great reform movements of the nineteenth century. New York City had one of the largest slave markets in US. Southerners who settled in Upstate areas brought slaves with them. In the early 19th century, religious revivals spread through the state, especially along the newly-built Erie Canal. This is the origin of the anti-slavery movement in New York. Many citizens, both black and white, helped fugitives (often called “Freedom Seekers”) escape to Canada. They were part of a secret network known as the Underground Railroad. Many homes and churches from Long Island to Buffalo still stand as landmarks to this secretive and illegal operation. Some are well-documented, like Harriet Tubman House in Auburn, the barn of Gerrit Smith house in Peterboro, the Site of the Rescue of slave William “Jerry” Henry in Syracuse and others are questionable. Many are lost - long ago torn down to make room for new development. To date, traces of this clandestine network are numerous but very rare are the traces left by the fugitives themselves. The photographs here below tell
the memories of the UGRR through this dual perspective, the abolitionists on the one hand and the fugitives on the other, showing for the first time some unique items, such as the faces carved into the rock by fugitive slaves in the base of Wesleyan Church in Syracuse, or the hands carved by a fugitive slave as a tribute to his liberator, as part of the Madison County Historical Society.
collection. How the memoires of the UGRR live nowadays in the territory and how their reappropriation can deal with the marketing and tourism logics?
Nicola Lo Calzo