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Major routes of travel for freedom seekers included movement from communities in the Mississippi River valley, up the Illinois River valley, east out of Iowa and Missouri, and going overland including north on the old Vincennes Trace/Hubbard's Trail.

From the onset of statehood in 1818 and into the Civil War years, more than 8,000 freedom seekers moved into and through Illinois. They traveled up the Illinois River Valley and overland from the Mississippi River towns of Cairo, Chester, Alton, Quincy, Galena and innumerable smaller places. Some came north through Indiana, some by foot, coach and horseback from Iowa and Wisconsin, and starting in the mid - 1850s, by train. Throughout, the vast majority came from Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A limited number came up the Mississippi River valley from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and a few from eastern states.

An estimated 3,600 to 4,500 freedom seekers came into northeastern Illinois over these years.

This document was prepared for a bus tour of Underground Railroad sites in the south suburbs of Chicago on June 10, 2017. The document includes a map, photographs, and a brief history of documented freedom seekers and those families and faith communities who helped them.

Also, important sites related to Black History in the region were visited and important Black American figures were highlited.

An extensive reference list provides information on further research and reading. Dr. McClellan also maintains a web site, http://www.illinoisundergroundrailroad.info/ for more information.


Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad

This document was prepared for and distributed to participants in a tour of Underground Railroad sites in the south suburban region of Chicago. The tour was led by Dr. Larry McClellan, Professor Emeritus, Governors State University on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

The tour was sponsored by the Friends of the Governors State University Library, and the Governors State University Foundation, and coordinated by Cheri Garey.

A PDF text document is available for ease of use by voice recognition software under "Additional Files" , see link below.

Freedom_Seekers_text.pdf (37 kB)
pdf to facilitate text to speech readers.