UIUC faculty and students, including the Department of Anthropology, Department of African American Studies, Profs. Gerald McWorter, Kate Williams, and Christopher Fennell have significantly contributed for the last two decades to the establishment of the New Philadelphia National Historic Site as the newest national park. The park is commemorating the history of early-19th century Black pioneers in Illinois.
Here is the announcement from the National Park Service Press Release on Dec. 30, 2022
WASHINGTON — New Philadelphia National Historic Site has been established as the newest national park to commemorate the history of early 19th century Black pioneers in Illinois. This milestone and several others were achieved after President Biden signed bills into law in recent days that will help preserve places, communities, and previously untold stories that tell a more complete history of our country through the National Park System.
Located near Barry, Illinois, New Philadelphia is the first town known to be officially registered by an African American. Frank McWorter, once an enslaved man, bought his freedom and the freedom of 15 family members by mining for crude niter in Kentucky caves and processing the mined material into saltpeter, by hiring his time to other settlers, and by selling lots in New Philadelphia, the town he founded. The site became a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009. New Philadelphia National Historic Site is now the 424th park in the National Park System.
The protection of the original town's location as a national historic site will permanently safeguard it for future generations and help preserve the important stories of Frank McWorter and others from the first African American town in the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) will work to establish a presence at New Philadelphia National Historic Site so that visitors can journey to the park and learn from the legacy of Frank McWorter.
“We welcome New Philadelphia National Historic Site as the 424th national park and invite all to learn about the town and those who lived there. The designation of New Philadelphia National Historic Site ensures that Frank McWorter’s struggle, sacrifices and legacy will never be forgotten,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “It is an honor to steward these parks and programs that preserve the diverse pieces of our nation’s history.”