Organizers of the October 23rd Abolitionist Freedom Walk hoped that at least 104 walkers would join the reenactment of the 104 abolitionists who walked from the “brink of the (Erie) canal” in Canastota to Peterboro to attend the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society in October 1835. Grand weather, good-natured walkers, great spirits, and generous sponsors assured over 104 walkers tracing a portion of the steps taken by the abolitionists in 1835. Brief re-enactments told the story of that 19th C. walk, and facsimiles of the interpretive signage will record that history when the real signs are installed at a later date.
Max Smith’s awesome rendition of the Peterboro Anthem (O Freedom) was mind-setting of the walk. Felisha Legette-Jack, Syracuse University Basketball Coach, inspired the walkers with the sharing of her mother’s determination against racism. The coach launched the crowd of walkers making their way to Clockville, and returning to Canastota. A reenactment reception was held in Peterboro later in the afternoon.
The 104 were part of the original 600 delegates trying to hold the convention in Utica in 1835. When the delegates were threatened with bodily harm and mobbed by crowds, Gerrit Smith invited the delegates to meet in the safety of Peterboro. Around three hundred delegates walked and rode carriages over the hills of Clinton and Vernon Center to reach the hamlet of Peterboro the next day. Thus, on October 22, 1835 four hundred delegates completed the formation of the NYS Antislavery Society in the 202-year-old building owned by the Town of Smithfield, and the home of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.
The organizers are grateful for a grant from Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Erie Canalway IMPACT! Grant Program which initiated the project. Planning for 2023 is in motion.
More information will be available at AbolitionRoad.org