Congress authorizes study of historic Illinois town, President expected to sign into law
Washington, D.C. – December 17, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — In the closing days of the 113th Congress, both the House and Senate have now passed a bill by Rep. Aaron Schock to facilitate the designation of New Philadelphia, Ill., as a National Park. The original legislation, H.R. 930, previously passed the House by a unanimous vote on Apr. 28. In final negations between House and Senate leaders, a number of federal lands bills were rolled into H.R. 3979, the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act that establishes defense priorities and funding for the year ahead. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law within days.
“The designation of the New Philadelphia site as a National Park will provide an important economic benefit to the entire region. As we prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, historians, researchers, and tourists will come to New Philadelphia to learn more about the immense contribution of freed slaves to the nation and their immense sacrifice to rebuild a torn union,” Schock said of the bill’s passage.
“The New Philadelphia Association has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the town and the legacy of its founder, Frank McWorter. I’m pleased to join them in celebrating this significant milestone.”
Philip Bradshaw, president of the New Philadelphia Association, expressed appreciation for the work Congressman Schock has done to assist preservation of the historic site:
“The special resources study is an opportunity to confirm the extraordinary historical significance of New Philadelphia as the first town in our country founded and legally registered by an African American. Under stewardship of the National Park Service, New Philadelphia will be preserved and protected to inspire present and future generations with themes important to all Americans: the struggle for freedom and opportunity and the love of family.”
New Philadelphia was the first town founded and built by a freed slave before the Civil War. The town’s founder, Frank McWorter, was born a slave in South Carolina in 1777. He later married his wife, Lucy, herself a slave on a Kentucky plantation, in 1799. By hiring out his own time, McWorter was able to save enough money to buy his own freedom and that of his wife. Over time, he bought the freedom of 16 other family members.
In 1830, the family moved to Illinois, where Frank McWorter bought a farm in Pike County. In 1836, he plotted the town of New Philadelphia and founded it as the first fully racially integrated community before the Civil War. By 1850, U.S. Census data showed both African-American and European settlers living in the town.
To read more about New Philadelphia, click here.
Benjamin Cole (202.225.0044)