The Women of New Philadelphia

In 1836, Frank McWorter founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. McWorter was born enslaved but eventually purchased his own freedom. In platting New Philadelphia, he became the first African American to legally do so and welcomed residents of all races. It was also a stop on the Underground Railroad, providing shelter, food, and shoes to people escaping their enslavement. In this way, it served as a beacon of the anti-slavery movement and an integrated community in a time of widespread white supremacy.

New Philadelphia also saw Black women taking on leadership roles as family matriarchs. This quilt is one of many that have survived from New Philadelphia and testifies to the work of the town’s women. It was made by a member of the Walker family who, like the McWorters, were born enslaved and bought their freedom. They married into the McWorter family and played an important role in maintaining New Philadelphia and preserving its story.

Courtesy of the McWorter Family

Loaned McWorter Quilt

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