explore our history
The present-day City of Niagara Falls, formerly known as the Village of Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge, played a critical role in the Underground Railroad. Niagara Falls was an established border crossing that was readily accessible via numerous transportation routes, including the Erie Canal. There was a well-established network of abolitionists and anti-slavery activists in western New York.
By the mid-nineteenth century, Niagara Falls was already a renowned tourist destination. The many hotels provided employment for a significant portion of the village’s large African American population, some of whom were free and many of whom were likely refugees that had escaped from slavery.
A primary goal of the Underground Railroad Heritage Area is to rediscover and promote this important aspect of the City’s history for the benefit of both residents and visitors.
Use this easy online web app to find walking and driving directions to Underground Railroad sites all over Niagara County.
Historical Resources Survey
Research efforts for the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area have focused on the people, places, and stories in and around the City of Niagara Falls that illuminate our understanding of the Underground Railroad and celebrate the courage of the men and women who sought, and/or helped others to achieve, freedom from enslavement during the mid-nineteenth century. As part of the Heritage Area Management Plan, a Historic Resources Survey was prepared by the award winning Underground Railroad historian, Dr. Judith Wellman. The survey included reviews of primary and secondary sources such as manuscripts, census records, historical maps, memoirs and autobiographies, local and county histories, newspapers, and oral traditions, as well as interviews and collaboration with local historians and extensive community outreach.
Database of People and Sites Relating to the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism, and African American Life, 1820-1880 Niagara Falls and Niagara County
This database provides a summary of the extensive historical research conducted for the project. The database identifies people and places in Niagara County who were associated with the Underground Railroad and/or Abolitionism. The database includes not only the names of significant people and places, but also describes their association with the Underground Railroad and provides the source or reference for that information. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of all who contributed to this research.
Federal and State Census Index of African Americans in Niagara County, 1850-1880
This database represents the results of a search of census records from 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1870, 1875, and 1880 to identify the names of African Americans who settled in Niagara County. The purpose of this research is to attempt to identify individuals associated with the Underground Railroad in Niagara County, including people who may have escaped from slavery during the mid-nineteenth century.
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It is our mission to share the historic roles of the people of Niagara Falls in facilitating freedom for the oppressed, and we invite you to connect with our stories.
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