WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Free Frank & New Philadelphia

Pike County, IL – Illinois was home to the first U.S. town founded by an African-American. That former slave's name was Frank McWorter - or Free Frank as he became known. The town's name was New Philadelphia and it was located in western Illinois' Pike County. The town faded into the prairie many years ago. Archeologists are now digging through the site, seeking artifacts that might provide some clues into what life was like in antebellum New Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Free Frank's great-great-granddaughter, Juliet Walker, has written the first and only comprehensive book about the man and the town. Walker has clashed with archeologists at times and both sides have different visions for the site's future. Reporter Marc Nelson spoke with Walker and other researchers for a two-part feature about Free Frank and the New Philadelphia site. Listen to both parts of the feature by clicking on the audio button above.