The plantation was moving, there was no stopping that. “Free” Frank McWorter, as he was ironically called, had an idea. But he was enslaved – would the plantation owner even listen to him?
McWorter had an entrepreneurial mind. He was often hired out to take jobs, and had even worked on the neighboring farm with good results. So he came to the plantation owner with an audacious question.
Could he stay and run farm operations? Astoundingly, the owner agreed, so McWorter worked the plantation and mined saltpeter on the side until he was able to purchase his and his family’s freedom.
He was eventually able to buy a large tract of land in Illinois, which he divided up and sold to anyone, Black or not, looking to settle there. He called the settlement New Philadelphia.
New Philadelphia thrived! When a new railroad was being built, the town was a top contender for a stop. However, when another town was chosen instead, the town’s population began to dwindle.
Today the site is mostly farmland, but its history lives on as an example of Black audacity and excellence. We have to be bold to make our vision of freedom come to fruition, even when it seems impossible!