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Reenactment, Freedom Walk to mark historic event

Posted 9/10/22

On Oct. 21, 1835, 600 black and white abolitionists met in Utica to form an antislavery society.

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Reenactment, Freedom Walk to mark historic event

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CANASTOTA — On Oct. 21, 1835, 600 black and white abolitionists met in Utica to form an antislavery society.

Twice, the 600 delegates were confronted by an angry mob 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 three hundred men made their way to Peterboro up over the hill through Vernon Center. One hundred four 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.

The people of Peterboro fed the abolitionists and at 11 a.m. on Oct. 22, 1835, the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society was held in the building that is the town of Smithfield municipal building and the home of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, 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 arrival in Canastota of the abolitionists and with a 9 a.m. initiation of the Abolitionists Freedom Walk by Felisha Leggett-Jack, the newly named Syracuse University women’s basketball head coach.

Registered walkers will trace a portion of the 9-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 5-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.”

Registration to walk and ride is online at www.AbolitionRoad.org.

At 1 p.m., in Peterboro, a reenactment, a sign unveiling, and a 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,” said Okigbo of his donation. “The goal,” explained Marilyn Higgins, event creator, “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. 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 to Oct. 23, 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.

Information and registration at www.AbolitionRoad.org. Registered walkers receive a long-sleeved tee shirt with the Okigbo event logo. Limited coach rides are available. Pre-registration on line is $35. Student registration is $25. Onsite registration is at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 23.

For information, visit Canal Town Museum, 122 Canal St.; or call 315-697-5002; visit the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro; email nahofm1835@gmail.com; or go online to wwwnationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org.

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