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The students wrote their presentations as if they were addressing a group of tourists visiting a specific site and learning about the person or people associated with it. They assessed whether the site was clearly documented or merely rumored. They relied on documents from the Black History Collection at The History Center in Tompkins County, and on previous work on the Underground Railroad and the African American community in Ithaca. Once they established the main facts about the site and people in question, many of them chose to engage in creative writing and tell an imaginary short story about what might have happened at the site during the time of the Underground Railroad. Finally, each student also presented a document from Cornell University’s Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection and Gail and Stephen Rudin Collection on Slavery in America. You can find the list of documents they analyzed here.

Two students were assigned to write the introduction and the conclusion to the tour, explaining the key role that Ithaca played in the history of the Underground Railroad, and the city’s current contribution to the fight against racism.

Two more students focused on the archival holdings of The History Center in Tompkins County: one delved into the story of Peter Webb and the Old Speed Homestead and the other one reviewed the Black History Collection as a whole.

The other students focused on the following sites and people:

The Hanford house at 118 Lower Creek Rd.Altha Todd Hanford and her husband William Hanford
The barbershop at 121 E. State St.George Johnson
112 North Aurora St.George Johnson’s father and Ben Johnson 
116 Cleveland Ave. – St. James AME Zion ChurchRichard Allen (along other Methodists), Rev. Thomas James, Samuel Perry, and Jermain Loguen
118 Cleveland Ave.Aunt Elsie Brooks 
125-126 W. Green St.Benjamin Halsey and his daughter
213 S. Plain St. Henry Moore
217 S. Geneva St.Alexander Murdock
326 S. Cayuga St.Simeon DeWitt and Francis Bloodgood
The corner of North Tioga and Seneca Streets (now the Seneca Street parking ramp)Frederick Douglass

 To see where the sites are located, click on the stars on the map below: