Journey Through History: An Underground Railroad Tour for Black History Month

By: Isabelle Flener   

Students, staff, faculty, and community members were invited to the Underground Railroad Tour presented by the Black Student Association in honor of Black History Month. Tour attendees visited the Hamilton Primary School and the Cheney Museum. Lots of informational pieces of history were willingly shared throughout the tour. 

Hamilton Primary School was the first stop on the tour. The school is located in Otterville, Illinois and became the first free school in Illinois and the first integrated school in the country in 1983.  

The Cheney Mansion in Jerseyville, Illinois was the following stop. The house was built in 1913 and is the oldest home in Jersey County. Beth McGlasson, Vice President of Cheney Mansion lead the tour through the house.  

Eric Robinson was the group’s tour guide for the day. Robinson has been offering Underground Railroad tours of the Alton area since 1995. He has had many people return on multiple tours. “I try to get people to think about how escaped slaves and those who helped them lived and survived during a time when if you were caught with an escaped slave, you would be killed,” shared Robinson.  

Jared Hennings was the coordinator for the event, as well as the coordinator for the Black Student Association. “This tour is such a positive activity for Black History Month. I do not do it for me to come on it: I do it because it is a service to the community,” stated Hennings. This is Hennings’ 15th year hosting this tour for Lewis and Clark. 

“I have always offered this event since the very first year it was here. It has consistently been a staple of the Black History Month calendar. When I plan out the calendar, I talk to Eric first. It is the first event on it, everything else can be planned around this event,” said Hennings.  

Robinson has been a tour guide for so long that it feels at home to him. “This tour is my family, and I am doing this for my community. On this tour, there are the people I went to high school with, along with my cousin and his family. There are people I have known for a long time that come on tours. Jared is an old friend. I have gotten to know so many people, so it is just wonderful to do this,” Robinson stated. 

Hennings has also been on the tour for many years and enjoys it immensely every year. “It means a great deal to me because the community, both black people and white people, want to know this kind of history. When you can take a tour like this, you can listen to experts. You get to see various locations and you can visualize some of what was happening back in the 1800s. It is a form of history that you cannot read in books. That is where the real value comes in, and why it is so important and included every year,” shares Hennings. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Underground Railroad, or booking a tour please contact Eric Robinson at either 618-462-5590 or 

If you are eager to know more about the Hamilton Primary School or the Cheney Mansion visit their websites by clicking on their name.  

About Isabelle Flener

Isabelle is working towards her Associates of Arts degree, with plans to graduate in Fall 2024. After completing her arts degree, she intends to transfer to a university to pursue a degree in photojournalism.
View all posts by Isabelle Flener →

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