A public park in Downtown Jackson is being recognized for its connections to the Underground Railroad. Bucky Harris Park was recently added to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. It’s a program that identifies sites across the United States important to Underground Railroad history. Jackson has been identified as a stop on the Underground Railroad, which was a secret network dedicated to helping slaves escape to freedom.
Bucky Harris Park sits at the corner of W. Michigan Avenue and N. Jackson Street. It currently features a large mural, performance stage, fire pit and green space. In the mid-1800s, there were several commercial buildings at this location. Research from Jackson resident Linda Hass shows Michigan’s first anti-slavery newspaper, along with three other anti-slavery newspapers, were founded in these commercial buildings.
These newspapers, which were named the Jacksonburg Sentinel, the American Freeman, the Michigan Freeman and the American Citizen, were influential in the anti-slavery movement preceding the Civil War. The American Freeman is now recognized as Michigan’s first anti-slavery newspaper. Hass’s research shows all of the newspaper’s founders put their words into action by being involved in Underground Railroad activity in Jackson. “The four Jackson residents who founded these papers faced persecution, destruction of property and financial hardships, but they persevered for a cause they strongly believed in. Their legacy leaves an example of bravery that is relevant in all generations,” Hass said.
After uncovering this local history, Hass collaborated with the City of Jackson to get Bucky Harris Park on the National Underground Network Railroad to Freedom listing. Next month, a new State of Michigan Historical Marker will be unveiled in the park to further recognize its history.
Jackson’s Mt. Evergreen Cemetery received a State Historical Marker and was placed on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom listing last year. Seven people who were involved in the Underground Railroad in Jackson, including an escaped slave, are buried in the cemetery. Both of those efforts were led by Hass. “The City of Jackson is honored to have our history get statewide and national recognition,” said Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick. “The City thanks Linda Hass and other local researchers who are bringing this important local history to light. We’re proud of these brave men and women who helped others achieve freedom.”