Folks ride through history on Mobile’s first Underground Railroad Bike Tour

The bike tour wraps up Heritage Weekend, a time to honor and remember the Port City’s African-American history
Updated: May. 21, 2023 at 9:15 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Folks in the Port City hopped on bikes Sunday afternoon for the Underground Railroad Bike Tour.

The 8-mile ride capped the final day of Heritage Weekend- a time to remember and honor Mobile’s African-American history.

“It’s been an incredible weekend from honoring the Excelsior Band on Friday---and then Saturday the preview of Franklin House gallery- and then today with this beautiful day we’ve been blessed with and the sun didn’t come out which was a great day for the ride,” said Carlos Finley with the Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail in Mobile.

The bike route started at Heart of Mary School. Cyclists stopped at various markers along the way along the Trail.

“Mobile has the first National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Marker in the state of Alabama. Wallace Turnage, an escaped slave in 1864, was the first slave to go South instead of North. That’s the significance Mobile has to the National Underground Railroad,” explained Finley.

Many bikers say this was an eye-opening experience.

”We always pass stuff by and say it’s just a marker- but I’ve been to routes so many times- I run different races and never saw those markers,” said Maria Prieto-Moreno. “Now, I can stop and see what’s there. Like Carlos said, it’s about passing on history so we don’t forget and repeat our mistakes.”

“We went to Africatown and learned about it,” said Eric Young. “You hear some of those street names around town, and now I know where those names came from and originated from.”

“I think it’s important that we continue traditions like this--- these may be the only places we can hear these kinds of stories for quite some time. Especially if you’re a cyclist, I’m always looking for ways to explore,” added Reggie Weaver.

At the finish line, a lively band welcomed cyclists back from the ride. Several sponsors provided swag bags, food, and more.

Kelly Finley, Communications Director for the DFF African-American Heritage trail, says sponsors play a vital role in preserving the Trail’s history.

“The best part about all of this is when we reached out to our partners, they said ‘what can we do, we’re there.’ And that means something because they’ve been there when no one was talking about this. And here they are, so proud to partner up with us.”

“I’m a big history person anyway, so this was right up with my alley,” said Laurie Snow. “I got to hang out with my friends who are just fabulous and make some new ones.”

Meanwhile, the Finleys say plans are already in the works for next year’s bike tour.

Click here to learn more about the Heritage Trail and its presence in the Port City.