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Welcome to our tour of the Underground Railroad in Ithaca, NY!

This tour was put together by the students of HISTORY 1200: “The Antiracist Workshop: Race and Writing in America and Europe” (Spring 2022) at Cornell University. Each student focused on a site, a person, and a document that illustrate this fascinating local history. 

Image: This poster board showing photos of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass stands in St. James AME Zion Church | © Matt Steecker / Ithaca Journal

This project was the culmination of a First-Year Writing Seminar about what racism is and what being antiracist entails. The students put theory into practice: using the writing and analytical skills they acquired, and harnessing their creativity, they devised a guided tour of the most relevant sites of the Underground Railroad in Ithaca, and, in so doing, they contributed to highlighting Ithaca’s role in the fight against slavery. I am truly proud of my students for their hard, dedicated work to promote Black History in Ithaca. This website is intended as a public exhibition: anyone can access it and learn more about this history, as if they were physically taking the tour.

To learn more about our tour guides’ presentations, click here. To discover the documents they analyzed, click here. You can find their bios here. The students are protected under FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), so each of them picked a pseudonym to sign their work.

Our deepest thanks go to: Professor Gerard Aching for introducing us to the history of the Underground Railroad in Ithaca; Cornell librarians Anthony (Tony) J. Cosgrave and Kofi Acree for teaching the students how to use the library databases and catalogs, and for showing us precious artifacts from Cornell’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (this is the LibGuide they put together for the course); and Donna Eschenbrenner and The History Center in Tompkins County for giving us access to the archival holdings of the Black History collection. Any mistakes on this website are our responsibility, not theirs.

When you use this website, please be kind to us! We did not have any funding for the project, and this is the work of enthusiastic undergraduate students, mostly in their freshman year of college. I created this website with a free WordPress template. The students’ presentations are not perfect, of course, but they convey their passion and their eagerness to contribute to public history in the Ithaca community. If you find any inaccuracies, feel free to email me at and I will do my best to correct them. If you are an instructor or a researcher interested in the story of the Underground Railroad, also feel free to get in touch, and I will be happy to share the materials I’ve assembled. Research on the Underground Railroad in Ithaca continues with the exciting St. James AME Zion Church Community Excavations, and so this website is part of a larger suite of projects aimed at uncovering this rich history.

Benedetta Carnaghi

Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow

University College Dublin