Following In The Footsteps To Freedom


Photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales retraced the steps of fleeing slaves along the Underground Railroad for her project Through Darkness to Light:

Finding that there were few visual records of the secret stations along the escape route, she herself traced the steps taken by many of the 100,000 slaves between the Southern plantations of Louisiana to the border of Canada, where slavery was prohibited. Along the way, she creates an archive of historical sites both famous and obscure, discovered through academic inquiry at historical societies and oral histories passed down through generations. …

Michna-Bales shoots after dark, capturing the ambiguous nature of the shadowed land, which becomes shrouded both in terror and in hope. After examining each station during the day, she sometimes had to score the spot with a plastic bag lest she lose her way in the dark. Some safe houses had not been well documented; after reading accounts, she would work from a general area, searching and asking around for old houses. Many homeowners confirmed her hunches and led her other buildings along the railroad. Once, police showed up after her presence had been called in by neighbors, only to offer her more insight into the history of the railroad.

See more of her work here.