New Philadelphia Archaeology Project

McWorter Family Statement
to National Historic Landmarks Committee, Oct. 29, 2008

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My name is Patricia McWorter, a great, great grand-daughter of Frank and Lucy McWorter, and I rise to speak for and represent my family. We are so very pleased to be here helping the nation embrace its true self, something we have always known in our family, but now you will be enabling us to share and develop this story as part of the official history of the country. We thank you for this long overdue public recognition.

Patricia McWorter and Charlotte King

Patricia McWorter (left) and Charlotte King (right) at the National Historic Landmarks Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Paul Shackel).

First and foremost, I want to say that the importance of the founding and development of the abolitionist town of New Philadelphia is about our family and all the town's descendants, but it is also about Illinois and the entire United States. It's a message we can send to the world.

This story takes us back to the 18th century at the time of the founding of this country. There have been some African Americans who have had their voices heard from the slave experience. Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Phyllis Wheatley, and Nat Turner, but there are so many, many more coming to the fore. The McWorter-New Philadelphia legacy is one of those voices.

Now, over 150 years since the death of Frank McWorter, we stand here today reflecting on the meaning of his life and the town of New Philadelphia. Everyone is clear that the moral, cultural, and political struggle against slavery brings up the name of President Lincoln. But where is the voice of the African American. We are fortunate to be able to call the name of Frank McWorter, who gives us the chance to learn from the agency of an African American.

Frank McWorter demonstrates the possibility of change based on what we can only call the birth of the American spirit for freedom. Born one year after the U.S. won its liberation from England, this slave worked under slavery, bought freedom for his pregnant wife so that his 4th child would be born free, and in the end bought freedom for 16 family members, including himself.

The town of New Philadelphia was an example of abolitionism at work, the sharing of a community by whites and Blacks, both as neighbors and as members of the same family. This was their lifestyle less than 20 miles from slavery. These were proud and noble people who were living up to the American dream in spite of what shape America was in at that time.

Our future is in the past. New Philadelphia is a key to the future of this country.

The McWorters and the town New Philadelphia were about freedom. They assisted slaves running to freedom; "get to that New Philadelphia and one of those McWorter boys will give you a horse, a pair of shoes and guide you to Canada to freedom," so goes our family oral history. Frank's grandchild, Squire McWorter, fought in the Civil War as a part of the Union Army, Infantry 38th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry.

But most important of all is that they lived in Illinois and are a beacon light for all to see and that the American possibility is a great challenge for all of us to live up to. We are strengthened by the memory of New Philadelphia.

One can read the testimony in the Pike County History of 1880 to see the story has always been part of the local Illinois history. Now is the time for this to officially become part of the national narrative, a part of our collective story. Frank McWorter and New Philadelphia are about what a Black man accomplished, what an abolitionist town accomplished, and what hard work and sacrifice for family, for freedom for all, can lead to even under the most adverse of conditions. Isn't this the message we need to send today, to ourselves and the entire world, that this is what this country strives to be about when we are at our best.

As family, we are committed to working with the New Philadelphia Association and the governmental organizations from the federal, state, county and local levels to make this a site of national heritage that we can all learn from and be proud of for years to come.

Thank you.

Patricia McWorter

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