“Free” Frank McWorter

Building a Free Home

Among the many freedoms stripped from enslaved Black Americans was a stable sense of home. Indeed, the very concept of home became contorted as enslaved families faced harsh living conditions and the constant threat of forced separation and removal. Yet, despite these obstacles, some people took risks to secure their freedom and build a home.

Free Frank McWorter was one such person. Enslaved until his 42nd year, he earned enough money “hiring out” himself to purchase his freedom. Over time, more and more members of the family earned their freedom in this way and then in turn purchased freedom for others. McWorter moved from Kentucky to Illinois in 1830 and settled on 80 acres in Pike County.

He did well, eventually expanding his holdings and apportioning part of them into the community of New Philadelphia—the first American town legally platted by a Black person. The biracial community McWorter built offered the same sense of freedom and home to others that he had carved out for his own family.


Object label:

New Philadelphia Table

A table built by Solomon McWorter, Frank McWorter’s son, at New Philadelphia.

Courtesy of the McWorter Family.

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