Photo compilation of both sides of the Underground Railroad Historical Marker

Case Western Reserve University to dedicate new historic Underground Railroad site marker with free, public celebration

This fall semester, Case Western Reserve University installed a historic Underground Railroad site marker on the southeast corner of Adelbert Road and Euclid Avenue, outside the Allen Memorial Medical Library.

To dedicate the newest historic marker on campus and celebrate Case Western Reserve’s historical connection to the Underground Railroad and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the university will host a program at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, in Amasa Stone Chapel (10940 Euclid Ave., Cleveland), followed by a reception (outside the chapel, weather permitting). The event is free and open to the public.

One side of the plaque recognizes the role Western Reserve College, then located in Hudson, Ohio, played in the anti-slavery movement.

The other side honors Horatio Cyrus and Martha Cozad Ford, whose home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The land on which the home stood became part of the university campus when the college moved to Cleveland.

The marker is sponsored by the Friends of Freedom Society Inc., Case Western Reserve and Emeritus Trustee Allen H. Ford, whose great-grandparents owned the Underground Railroad site where the marker is being dedicated.

“This dedication represents CWRU’s recognition of its connection to a significant moment in American history and the freedom struggle of African-American people,” said Marilyn Sanders Mobley, vice president of the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity. “Ironically, when many campuses are dealing with names of buildings and legacies of the enslavement of black people in the United States, this marker stands on a site of Underground Railroad activity that enslaved people understood supported their struggle for freedom.”

Abolitionist sentiment was strong among Western Reserve College students and faculty from the early 1830s, according to research by Richard Baznik, university historian and vice president emeritus for public affairs.

In 1854, Douglass, a former slave and an outspoken proponent of abolitionism, addressed the Western Reserve College Philozetian Society during Commencement Week, urging the audience to take an active role in the slavery debate.

The Ford family home, once located on the site of the new historic marker, was used as a refuge for fugitive slaves, as was the Cozad family home across Euclid Avenue, then known as the “Buffalo Road.”

The program will include:

  • Remarks from university officials about the occasion and its significance
  • Comments from Ford
  • Comments from CWRU alumna Joan Southgate, who walked the trail of the Underground Railroad from Ohio to Canada and founded Restore Cleveland Hope, located in University Circle at the Cozad Bates House
  • Spoken-word performance by CWRU student Terren Weedon, of excerpts from Douglass’ speech
  • Music from Hue People
  • Reception

The event is free and open to the public. An online RSVP is requested.