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Free Frank’s New Philadelphia, Illinois: First U.S. Town Founded by a Black Man

Event Type
UIS Speaker Series | Cosponsored by Black History Month Academic Ad Hoc Committee, Department of History, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Department of African American Studies, Brookens Library, Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum, and UIS Archives
Student Union
Nov 5, 2019   6:00 pm  
Gerald McWorter & Kate Williams-McWorter
Event is free and open to the public
Originating Calendar
ECCE Speaker Series Community Calendar

We will learn of the personal history and living legacy of Free Frank McWorter, who founded New Philadelphia, an abolitionist town just 20 miles from slavery, and purchased 16 family members from slavery, starting with his pregnant wife and then himself. Gerald McWorter & Kate Williams McWorter will discuss their recent publication, "New Philadelphia" (2018). Gerald McWorter is the great-great-grandson of “Free” Frank. New Philadelphia was inhabited for more than 100 years. Its location is now on the National Register of Historic Places and under consideration to become a designated National Park. As Barack Obama said, “New Philadelphia is a site of national importance as the first town known to be founded and platted by an African American. Platted in 1836 by Frank McWorter, a former slave, New Philadelphia thrived as a biracial community during a period of extreme racial tension.” Against all odds, this is an important story of community creation and family unification.


Gerald A. McWorter (Abdul Alkalimat), PhD., professor emeritus, African American Studies & iSchool, UIUC. Abdul Alkalimat (Gerald A. McWorter) is a founder of the field of Black Studies and author of many books and papers about Black liberation. He wrote the first college textbook for the field, Introduction to Afro-American Studies. A lifelong scholar-activist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, he has lectured, taught, and directed academic programs across the U.S., the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and China.

Kate Williams-McWorter, PhD Michigan, is associate professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her scholarship makes use of five interrelated ideas: community, social capital, public computing, cyberpower, and the informatics moment. She focuses her attention on communities that use information technology rather than on technology itself as a social intervention. By identifying the informatics moment, she shifts attention from the structural deficit model implied in the concept of the “digital divide” to a model of self-reliant community transformation.

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