About Freedom Crossing

Hear the stories. Discover the history. Experience the legacy at “Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara.”

The Niagara River was often the last crossing for people escaping slavery in America. From the early 1800s until the end of the Civil War in 1865, thousands of fugitive slaves passed through Buffalo Niagara on the Underground Railroad, as they traveled to freedom in Canada.

The Underground Railroad Exhibit at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, “Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara,” serves to tell this story through:

  • Historic photographs
  • Artifacts, including historic documents
  • Books and real life stories
  • Interactive stations
  • Contemporary artwork

Brochures and maps will also lead you to Underground Railroad sites throughout the region.

“Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara Exhibit at the NACC” is part of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area’s initiative. It was made possible through a gift from the Castellani Art Museum, and a grant from the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

5 FAST FACTS About The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara

FACT #1: Upstate New York became a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity, as escaping slaves made their way to crossing points along the Niagara River. This increased after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.
FACT #2: Escaping slaves faced an arduous journey, traveling mainly at night—on foot, in wagons, or by train or boat—to elude bounty hunters.

The escape routes were called “lines”. Safe houses were “stations.” Those who assisted the slaves were “conductors.” And fugitives were “freight.”

FACT #3: Cataract House: Employed a predominantly African American wait staff, many of whom had been born in Southern States. Head waiter, John Morrison often ferried freedom seekers across the Niagara River to Canada.
FACT #4: Harriet Tubman led escaping slaves, including members of her own family, across the Suspension Bridge from Niagara Falls, NY to freedom in Ontario, Canada.
FACT #5: Thomas Root, an Abolitionist from Pekin, NY had a special arrangement with one of the border guards at the bridge. Whenever Root used the coded message, “We have a load of Southern calico (cotton cloth),” he was allowed to cross the bridge without inspection.


“When I found I had crossed that line I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything…and I felt as if I was in Heaven.”
– Harriet Tubman