WASHINGTON—Yesterday, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) introduced a resolution celebrating the 20th anniversary of the International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument, consisting of the Gateway to Freedom Monument in Detroit, Michigan and the Tower of Freedom Monument in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The resolution also calls for adding the Detroit River to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Site list and the creation of an International Gateway to Freedom National Heritage Corridor.
Sculpted by acclaimed artist Ed Dwight and dedicated on October 20, 2001, the Gateway to Freedom Monument sits along the Detroit River in Detroit’s Hart Plaza, and serves as a critical reminder of the role Detroit and the Detroit River played on the Underground Railroad path to freedom. The corresponding Tower of Freedom Monument across the river in Windsor makes this an unmatched international monument to the struggle and journey of enslaved Africans and their descendants to freedom. The discovery of vandalism targeting the Gateway to Freedom earlier this summer only underscores the need to devote more resources to preserving these landmarks.
“I am honored and humbled to be able to commemorate the legacy of the Underground Railroad in Detroit with Congresswoman Lawrence and advance the work of community advocates led by the Detroit River Project to secure formal designations from the federal government and UN protecting our shared history,” Tlaib said. “I often say that growing up in Detroit, there’s a reminder of the struggle for freedom and civil rights on every corner, and we need to do all we can to bring resources to our region to continue telling this important story. The Detroit River and its history should be celebrated and shared with the world.”
“As a young Black girl growing up on the eastside of Detroit, I learned that our community had a profound impact in our fight for justice, freedom, and civil rights throughout history. I am grateful to join Congresswoman Tlaib in introducing this powerful resolution to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument and call for adding the Detroit River to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list,” said Rep. Lawrence. “This history is so important, not only to Detroit and the Black community, but to the United States as well. The monument, and the Detroit River, serve as a reminder of where we’ve been as a country and how much more we have to do to live up to the promise of our democracy.”
Kimberly Simmons, Founder and Executive Director of the Detroit River Project, has spent years organizing an international coalition of scholars, artists, experts, and elected officials to tell the story of the Underground Railroad in the Detroit area. In addition to its advocacy for governmental designations, the Detroit River Project has developed a transnational educational curriculum known as “Resistance Along the Fluid Frontier: The Detroit River Project International Freedom Curriculum” to help teach this indispensable history.
“The story of freedom and the quest for justice is the story of our Detroit River region and the people that live here,” Simmons said. “It is reflected in our history shared across city limits, county lines and international borders. Our great river defines this region and those that have sought it’s promise of opportunity and dignity. We should celebrate our past, learn from prior struggles to build hope for today and a triumphant tomorrow. Freedom lives. “
Former Congressman John Conyers (MI-13) introduced the 10th anniversary resolution in 2011 alongside former Congressman Hansen Clarke (MI-14).
The full text of the resolution can be found here.