Free Frank: New Philadelphia Illinois  
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New Philadelphia Illinois Historic Preservation Foundation, Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker  
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About Us: Origin Of The Foundation
Origin Of The Foundation


While the Free Frank New Philadelphia Historic Preservation Foundation, was incorporated as a 501 ( c )(3) not for profit charitable organization in 2004, it's origin began in 1987, when it was founded by Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker. The Honorary Founder, Free Frank' McWorter's great granddaughter, Thelma McWorter Kirkpatrick (1907-2001), B.S. Fisk University, MSW Case Western University, who actively promoted his history and inspired her daughter, Dr. Juliet Elise Kirkpatrick Walker to focus on research on Free Frank and New Philadelphia. According to Dr. Walker “the restoration of the New Philadelphia Illinois was a dream of my mother.”

Beginning with her 1983 book on Free Frank, Dr. Walker moved not only to preserve and disseminate the history of Free Frank and New Philadelphia as a pioneer frontier town in the 1850s but also to call attention to the business and entrepreneurship history of African Americans during the age of slavery. Through intensive lobbying and effort, Dr. Walker in 1988, had the gravesite of her great great grandfather declared a National Register of Historic Place. Free Frank's gravesite is one of three in Illinois listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The other two are President Abraham Lincoln and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas. Also, in her continued efforts to generate public interest in the history of black business activity during the age of slavery Dr. Walker in 1990 retraced Free Frank's 1830 trek to Illinois by walking from Pulaski County, Kentucky to Pike County, Illinois (almost 300 miles).

In Dr. Maceo Crenshaw Dailey's review of Dr. Walker's critically acclaimed scholarly work, The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship, Professor Crenshaw states:

Professor Walker was inspired to take up the question of the African American business ethos owing to the family lesson and lore of her great-great-grandfather, Free Frank (l777-1854), who entered the realm of commerce and business with good intentions that got good results. Previous scholars would have us belief that Free Frank was an anomaly in his determination and his more than modicum of success. Though he "could not read or write...he could count," notes Walker. Free Frank established his own saltpeter (gunpowder) manufacturing business. He used profits to purchase his wife's freedom. In the intricacies of the slave world, Free Frank occupied a "triple status" as entrepreneur, intrapreneur, and field laborer, respectively opera ting his own business, managing his absentee owner's farm, and producing as a worker. If Free Frank was in an awkward situation, he nonetheless made the best of circumstances in a world driven by capitalism. In this, he found himself within, as well as inspiration for, a great tradition of black men and women in business--dealing with the hard and unfair, but constantly showing resolve. If the stories of Free Frank and other African American business individuals were unappreciated by contemporaries, historians have compounded the ignorance by omitting black entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs from any serious discussion of the nexus between American racism and capitalism. Maceo Dailey, "Review of Juliet E. K. Walker The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship" Economic History Services, Jun 11, 1999, URL :

Recognition for Dr. Walker's research on Free Frank and New Philadelphia represents, a carefully researched study, based on extensive research in federal, state, and county government records, published primary sources and the Free Frank family papers, provides the only documented historical scholarly study on Free Frank's economic life and his town of New Philadelphia.

Dr. Walker's book on Free Frank is noted as the preeminent scholar whose publications rescued Free Frank from historic obscurity and charged his life's experiences as a pioneer entrepreneur and, who documented his founding and development of the town of New Philadelphia, has led to commendations for her scholarly work on Free Frank in the Congressional Record, the Illinois General Assembly and, in 2005, the Illinois Governor declared a section of I-72, the Free Frank McWorter Highway. Her work was also instrumental as providing the scholarly framework for the awarding of an archaeological grant involving the site of New Philadelphia, Illinois.

Presently, the Free Frank New Philadelphia Historic Preservation Foundation is continuing with plans to restore the Free Frank Family Cemetery and also to rebuild New Philadelphia, as a frontier museum, as it existed at its height as a frontier town in the 1850s. This year the Foundation announced the Free Frank Cemetery Restoration Project. Still, the only scholarly documented and public information available on Free Frank and New Philadelphia is Dr. Walker's book, Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier.

  ©Copyright 2005 Free Frank New Philadelphia Historic Preservation Foundation
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