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ALTON, Ill. – History comes forward in the city of Alton. There’s a new, two-hour guided tour that lets you see how the city played a role freeing slaves through the Underground Railroad.

It’s called Pathways to Freedom. The Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau is encouraging people to take a journey on the road to freedom.

Beginning next week, you can trace the footsteps of the Underground Railroad and this Riverbend city’s role in helping enslaved men and women find their freedom.

Starting from the Alton Visitors Center, the historian-led shuttle tours take visitors 150 years into Alton’s past. That’s when Illinois was considered a free state and the Mississippi River provided passage for some and the opportunity to make connections for others.

The two hour-long guided shuttle tours stop at sites in Alton and Godfrey. From homes to churches, escaped slaves took refuge finding safe places to stay on their path to freedom and the Northern States in the United States.

The tourism bureau is sponsoring the Underground Railroad tours during Black History Month.

“We primarily focus on the Underground Railroad as it existed in 1850s,” said John Eric Robinson, assistant professor of history at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. “But we take a different slant. The Underground Railroad of the 1850s was primarily concerned with people going to Canada. They could find people who escaped from St. Louis to freedom. And what we do instead is focus on the communities where people went through such as Rocky Fork, a community that dates back to the 1700s.”

Those tours start next weekend, Saturday, February 29, and run monthly through October.

You can make a reservation by contacting the Alton Visitors Center.