The 21st Show

New IL national park honors first town founded by a formerly enslaved man


In 1836, on land about 40 minutes southeast from present day Quincy, Illinois, the town of New Philadelphia was founded by "Free Frank" McWhorter, becoming the first town in Illinois and possibly the United States to be legally founded by an African American. In 2009, it was designated as a national historic site, and in late 2022, it became a national park. 

The 21st was joined by a professor descended from the town's founder and the director of research at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which currently hosts an exhibit on New Philadelphia. 


Gerald McWorter

Professor Emeritus, School of Information Sciences, UIUC | Co-author, “New Philadelphia” | Great-great grandson of Free Frank McWorter | Vice President of New Philadelphia Association

Brian Mitchell

Director of Research and Interpretation, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum



Prepared for web by Owen Henderson

Help shape our coverage on The 21st by joining our texting group and answering weekly questions. To join, text “TALK” to 217-803-0730 or sign up with your phone number below: