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Published on April 24, 2024
San Antonio's Mission San José Unearthed as a Historic Haven on the Underground RailroadSource: Google Street View

In a significant unveiling that maps the interconnected paths of American history, Mission San José in San Antonio has been confirmed as a crucial stop along the Underground Railroad. The National Park Service indicated on Monday that this site, along with 18 others across the United States, has been added to its National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, as reported by the San Antonio Report.

The new findings pivot on an incident from 1833, when five individuals seeking liberty trekked an arduous 400 miles from Louisiana to San Antonio, at that time, a part of Mexico, where slavery was outlawed. When pursued by slave catchers, the Mexican Army intervened, resulting in an armed conflict that upheld Mexico's anti-slavery laws, as the Express-News detailed.

Integrated resources program manager at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Allison Young, revealed that Mission San José is also cited in a "run-away advertisement" showing it as a possible refuge for those escaping nearby plantations. "These documented stories may indicate a deeper history of Underground Railroad activity at the Mission among the mission community and associated religious orders during the antebellum era," Young told the San Antonio Report.

U.S. National Park Service Director Chuck Sams emphasized the importance of including all voices in the nation's history narrative, "The United States is still seen as the beacon of freedom around the world," Sams said during a naturalization ceremony at the mission. "Inviting in and bringing in new citizens, … it rings true for the folks who came here seeking freedom and it still does today," he said, as reported by the San Antonio Report.

The effort to document and preserve such sites is ongoing, with researchers focusing on locations along the Underground Railroad that have been lost to history or forgotten. According to Cristal Mendez, a historian at the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, the research that places slaves at Mission San José is still being compiled and is expected to be presented publicly in the coming years.