Tiya Miles

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New research exposes Detroit’s pre-Underground Railroad history

The beleaguered city’s slavery past suggests much about its potential future
By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Detroit historically has been known as a key stop in the Underground Railroad, visited by Blacks escaping from slavery in the South. However, a University of Michigan professor’s current research reveals that by no means were all of the slaves in Detroit passing through to freedom, even when slavery there was illegal. “Slaves in Detroit were not as interesting [to historians] as slaves in the South,” said University of Michigan Professor Tiya Miles at the 19th annual David Noble Lecture April 9 at the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum. The city originally was founded in 1701 as a fort first owned by the French; then it was acquired by the English until the time that it became a part of the U.S. Northwest Territories. “It [was] intended to be a settlement, not just a military trading post,” explained Miles, who began researching Detroit’s history three years ago. Continue Reading →

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