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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KIRK. Mr. President, today I am pleased to join with Senator Durbin to introduce a bill in support of New Philadelphia, the first town founded by a freed African-American. This bipartisan legislation would initiate a feasibility study in order to determine whether or not this area should be designated as a unit of the National Park System.

The town of New Philadelphia, Illinois, established in 1836, became the first known town platted and officially registered by an African-American prior to the Civil War. New Philadelphia became a place where European Americans, free-born African-Americans, and formerly enslaved individuals could live together in community during a time of intense racial strife that transpired before, during, and after the Civil War.

Frank McWorter, the founder of New Philadelphia and a former slave himself, saved money from neighboring labor jobs to purchase his own freedom and the freedom of fifteen other family members. Subsequently, Mr. McWorter purchased a sparse plot of land between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers in Pike County, Illinois to establish the town of New Philadelphia, which also became a station along the Underground Railroad.

In 2005, the town of New Philadelphia is designated a National Historic Place and more recently, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009. Being designated a unit of the National Park System will preserve the historical significance of New Philadelphia and allow its legacy to continue to inspire current and future generations to understand the struggle for freedom and opportunity.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.


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