Florence bike tour to highlight city’s role in anti-slavery movement

  • Tom Goldscheider, a historian who has been leading school groups and others on tours of the David Ruggles Center in Florence and surrounding historical points of interest, talks about items included in the center, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 9/16/2021 10:09:09 AM

FLORENCE — The David Ruggles Center for History and Education will host its first Florence Utopian Bike Tour later this month to showcase the city’s roots in the abolitionist movement.

The three-mile route will take participants along Florence’s streets and will feature 10 educational stops tied to the Underground Railroad and the fight against slavery. The landmarks include the Florence Civic Center, the Sojourner Truth Memorial and the David Ruggles Center.

Tom Goldscheider, education coordinator at the Ruggles Center, will lead the tour in partnership with the Friends of Northampton Trails. The tour will take place on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Goldscheider said the bike element is “a little twist” that “allows us to cover more territory” than the traditional walking tours offered by the Ruggles Center.

The event will convey Florence’s history as a liberal-minded community of radical abolitionists that flourished in the mid-1800s.

“The tour is about telling the stories of people,” Goldscheider said. Chief among them is David Ruggles, who Goldscheider described as “the most unsung hero in the move to abolish slavery.”

“It’s local history that also has national significance,” Goldscheider explained.

Freeman Stein, secretary of the Friends of Northampton Trails, added that it’s “a very appropriate and topical tour,” referencing the nation’s growing interest in social change and understanding racial inequality.

Stein said the tour has openings for up to 25 people, with tentative plans to schedule a follow-up tour if more bicyclists are interested.

Registration information is available on the events page of the Friends of Northampton Trails website. Sign-ups are available until Sept. 24 but participants are encouraged to register before then.

The cost to attend ranges from $5 to $20, which Stein described as “essentially a donation to the Ruggles Center.”

Later in the day, the “Florence Night Out” block party will bring art, music, and local businesses to the streets of Florence. Goldscheider said he hopes the bicyclists on the tour will stick around to celebrate.

All participants are expected to bring their own bikes and should be comfortable riding with a group and on the road, Stein said.

“I think it’ll be a great event,” Goldscheider said. “We’re combining biking and history. What’s not to love?”


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