History will be brought back to life on Thursday, Feb. 26 with the return of the Underground Railroad tour hosted by J.E. Robinson, just one of the many Black History Month celebratory events.
According to PBS.org, nearly 100,000 slaves during the 1800s escaped to the north on a vast system of pathways and tunnels called the Underground Railroad, named after the emerging steam railways.
“We have a rich history in our area. There are no exact maps to point at and say here, here, and here. There tends to be lots of speculation due to secrecy. However, one of the main routes that runs up the side of the Mississippi River Valley takes you smack through the middle of this area through Chicago and onward to Canada,” History Professor, Dr. Kelly Obernuefemann said.
This pathway that led to freedom over 200 years ago hosts many landmarks and stops that will be made on the upcoming tour.
“The last two years we have toured various places including apartments and churches. This year we are looking to find different stops for the repeat participants to get the same experience that they did before,” Students Activities Coordinator, Jared Hennings said.
The tour will pass through three surrounding towns: Fosterburg, Brighton and Jerseyville.
What patrons can expect to explore this year are areas similar to those seen on the previous tours.
According to Alton’s Visitors Bureau, these highlights played vital roles in helping slaves reach their freedom.
The site of the Anti-Slavery Society, and station to the Underground Railroad, is located at a private residence known as the Old Rock House in Alton.
Another residential building hosting a stop is the Enos Apartments, with a channel of tunnels 15 feet below the street.
One more more notable site is the Rocky Fork Church area, which originated for free people of color to find refuge.
Participants will begin the free tour near Wade Hall at 1 p.m., which will last about an hour and a half. The transportation provided will be a 47 seat passenger coach bus.
“Having a free tour is a major positive. Where else can you get information that is engaging and you don’t have to pay,” Hennings said.
This will be the third consecutive year that L&C has brought the Underground Railroad experience to the public. The previous two years the tour has averaged turnouts of 30 attendees.
The event is open to the community. For those wanting to make a reservation or get more information about the tour can contact Hennings at (618) 468-6400.
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