On Oct. 21, 1835, 600 abolitionists met in Utica to form an antislavery society. Twice the 600 delegates were confronted by angry mobs and thrown out of the Bleeker Street Church. Witnessing the thwarting of the First Amendment, Gerrit Smith invited the delegates to meet the next day in the safety of Peterboro.
Through the cold and rainy night, 300 men made their way to Peterboro through Vernon Center; 104 delegates rented an empty lumber barge in Utica and took the Erie Canal to Canastota. From Canastota, they walked up the steep elevation to Peterboro. Residents of Peterboro fed the abolitionists and at 11 a.m. Oct. 22, 1835, the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society was held in the Town of Smithfield municipal building and the home of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.
On Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at 8:30 a.m., the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will commemorate that historic event with a brief reenactment and a sign unveiling of the abolitionists’ arrival in Canastota and with a 9 a.m. initiation of the Abolitionists Freedom Walk by Felisha Leggett-Jack, the newly named Syracuse University Basketball Head Coach.
Registered walkers will trace a portion of the nine-mile trail from Canastota to Peterboro by taking a short 2.4 mile walk from Canal Town Museum to Clockville for another reenactment and sign unveiling, and then return to Canastota.
“This inaugural five-mile walk can be accomplished by most people in two hours,” said Terry Greene, volunteer walk organizer. “We will maintain a comfortable pace walking along a beautiful stretch of road in Central New York.”
Visit AbolitionRoad.org to register for the walk and ride.
At 1 p.m. in Peterboro, a reenactment, sign unveiling and reception will celebrate the arrival of the 1835 abolitionists to the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society. The logo for the event was designed by Chinedu Okigbo, the owner of Arielle Signs in Syracuse.
“I hope this logo encourages hundreds of residents and college students of all races to join arms, walk and celebrate this area’s proud abolitionist past,” Okigbo said of his donation.
“The goal is to celebrate unity in Central New York and shine a light on a largely unrecognized, pivotal moment in the history of the abolitionist movement,” said Marilyn Higgins, event creator. “We seek broad participation to make this dramatic local history a source of pride and inspiration for freedom-loving people everywhere.”
The Abolitionist Freedom Walk is one component of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Induction Weekend (Oct. 21 through 23, 2022) at which time Robert Everett, Calvin Fairbank and Stephen Myers will be inducted to the Hall of Fame.
This project is supported by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor through the Erie Canalway IMPACT! Grant Program.
“The Erie Canal spread not only goods and people, but ideas and inspiration,” said Bob Radcliffe, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We are pleased to support the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in telling the story of the Freedom Walk and inspiring people to take actions that will continue to build a more perfect union.”
Registered walkers receive a long-sleeved t-shirt with the Okigbo event logo. Limited coach rides are available. Pre-registration online is $35. Student registration is $25. Onsite registration is at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
The Canal Town Museum is located at 122 Canal St., Canastota. For more information, call 315.697.5002
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 5255 Pleasant Valley, Peterboro. For more information, email, Nahofm1835@gmail.com, visit nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org, or call 315.684.3262.