When Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin were formed as the Northwest Territories, it was established that there would be no slavery or involuntary servitude in this area. This did not preclude slaves who were already there or brought there by their owners. In 1793, Upper Canada became the first area to abolish slavery in the British Empire.
Canada had no extradition treaty with the United States at the time, so it became a destination for slaves. The Underground Railroad was formed as an organization to lead slaves up to Canada. Because of its proximity, Michigan was one of the major stops on the Underground Railroad.
The statue shows six fugitive slaves ready to board a boat to get to Canada. The figure pointing is George DeBaptist, a Detroit man who helped slaves get across the river to Canada. There is a corresponding statue in Windsor that shows a slave in joy of his freedom.
The statue was finished in 2001 by Edward Dwight was was the first African-American to qualify as an Astronaut. He's done other statues commerating moments in African-American History.
The figures are looking towards Windsor. The statue is almost 1-1 and you can imagine being there as they are looking towards freedom.
The boy is looking back towards Detroit.
The man is point towards Windsor.
A detail of the statue.
Another detail of the statue.
It is a pretty impressive looking statue.