The town of Alton was a major stop for escaped slaves making their way to freedom from St. Louis.
Some runaways stayed in Alton, and some continued north to Canada. Though Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery nationally, it wasn’t necessarily a friendly place to escaped former slaves.
“When a slave escaped, the notices of runaway slaves were, generally speaking, published in places where it was believed they had gone,” said J. Eric Robinson on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “That was a constant fear. [There was] not much security at all — in fact, it was very frightening in Illinois.”
Robinson is an assistant professor of history at St. Louis College of Pharmacy and proprietor of J. E. Robinson Tours. During the show, he spoke with host Sarah Fenske about the historic places and people involved in the Underground Railroad in St. Louis and in Illinois.
Robinson will begin guided tours of Alton’s Underground Railroad history starting Feb. 29.
Hear their full conversation:
What: Two-hour guided tours by the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau
When: Tours begin on Feb. 29, with 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. trips. Subsequent tours will be hosted on the last Saturday of the month through June.
Where: Tours begin at the Alton Visitors Center (200 Piasa St., Alton, IL 62002)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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