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Residents celebrate Juneteenth by remembering Underground Railroad stops in the borough

Bronx residents work to uncover history of Underground Railroad throughout the borough
Bronx residents work to uncover history of Underground Railroad throughout the borough 02:00

NEW YORK -- There's extra meaning to Juneteenth for residents in the Bronx as they work to uncover the history of the Underground Railroad throughout the borough.

Residents told CBS New York on Wednesday they've been walking on history for hundreds of years and it's time to recognize it.

"Even though you may not see it, it's here. It's something that has been forgotten," resident Perrin Lawton said.

There are no marks on the sidewalks, no signs on the church, and nothing that points to the Underground Railroad in the borough.

"People are really taken back because they lived here their whole lives and they just didn't know this history existed," Nilka Martell said.

But residents in the Bronx are taking back history that they say is theirs this Juneteenth by honoring the three secret Underground Railroad stops that were used by enslaved African-Americans to escape and find freedom.

Martell, the founder of Loving the Bronx, gives walking tours in the borough and said they only learned about the two locations in the South Bronx and one in West Farms recently.

"This is what the building actually looked like at the Mott Haven Reformed Church," said Martell. "This was one of the stops here for the Underground Railroad."

Dr. Steven Payne of The Bronx County Historical Society said they don't have many records of the stops, but proof of enslaved people in the borough have been found at burial sites like one in Hunts Point.

"Creative measures have to be taken to try to piece together this history," Payne said.

Residents say for hundreds of years the history of the Underground Railroad has nearly been buried below the surface. They say it's finally time for it to come to light and for people to realize the history they're walking on.

"You're standing on something so historical and I think once you start to notice that you start to feel the energy," Lawton said.

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