The Underground Railroad in Illinois, Freedom Trails: 2 Legacies of Hope
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East St. Louis Race Riot Memorial
July 1-2, 2005

July 1-2, 2005; East St. Louis and St. Louis communities come together to lay to rest the ancestors that suffered the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riots.
Endangered Underground Railroad Sites
The Illinois preservation Agency estimates some five hundred properties in Illinois are associated with the Underground railroad..many are in poor condition.
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Governor Touts Tourism
Gov. Blagojevish brings opportunity Returns to Southwestern Illinois. It consists of 5 primary goals to address economic and workforce development.
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two legacies of hope
The Underground Railroad in Illinois
Illinois became a free state in the Union in 1818, neighboring the slave holding states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Two major auctioning blocks were in Louisiana and St. Louis, Missouri. The Mississippi River shorelines were fertile ground for slaves seeking escape to freedom. Ohio, Indiana and Illinois reigned as having the most active lines that delivered fugitives from slavery to free destination sites.
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Illinois became a free state in the Union in 1818, neighboring the slave holding states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Two major auctioning blocks were in Louisiana and St. Louis, Missouri. This made the Mississippi River shorelines fertile ground for slaves seeking escape to freedom. Slaves forging to freedom found aid in many states from black free/freedmen and through a system named the Underground Railroad. Of those states, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois reigned as having the most active lines that delivered fugitives from slavery to free destination sites. (Siebert p.134) Illinois’ river ports and many watery tributaries within its boundaries added to its appeal from the southern most tip in Cairo moving north to Chester, through Southwestern Illinois, Alton and Quincy to the lakes of Chicago north eastward. Records indicate that all but the southwestern part of the state seemed to have been traversed. Of the remaining southern part, Wilbur Siebert in The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom writes… “ The geographical position of the most southern portions of Illinois and Indiana determined the character of the population settling there, an thus rendered under-ground enterprises in those regions more than ordinarily dangerous.” Further evidence seems to reveal, in fact, that very area was prone to “reverse underground railroad activities.” The infamous Old Slave House on Hickory Hill outside of Equality, Illinois is a prime example. Slavery was actually permitted in this area to assist in the labor intense production of salt, one of the state’s first industries.

Based on available maps of the historic UGRR in Illinois, there seems to be roughly six major definable routes of the Underground Railroad. The majority of those converge into Chicago. Therefore the movement was leading towards Chicago and beyond to Canada, “The Promised Land”. It is important to note that no one UGRR site stands independently. The safety of the dense forest in Shawnee, a cave near Rockwood, a tunnel or railroad car on the ICRR in Cairo, a haystack or old barn was just as important as any house in Alton, church in Lovejoy, school in Grafton, or mansion in Tamaroa, Quincy or Jacksonville that may have been offered for the same cause. The system was based on connectivity…leaving one place to find hope at another. Illinois’ cities and counties are as connected in this effort as are Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and other states.

 

 

 
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