Knox College People, Places Featured on Map Linked to PBS Program

Historical background for broadcast of "The Abolitionists"

December 11, 2012

PBS American Experience - The Abolitionists

People and places from the history of Knox College and Illinois that figured prominently in the 19th-century anti-slavery movement are featured on an interactive website developed in conjunction with the television broadcast of "The Abolitionists," on PBS in January 2013.

PBS says the program, scheduled for January 8 at 9 p.m. EST, shows how "abolitionist allies Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation."

Owen Muelder"The Abolitionist Map of America," created by the producers of the PBS series The American Experience, pinpoints locations throughout the United States that are linked to significant events and figures in the anti-slavery movement prior to the Civil War.

PBS requested information about anti-slavery activities in Illinois from Owen Muelder, director of the Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College and author of two books on the abolitionist movement.

"The story of American anti-slavery activism often focuses on the eastern states, where the movement originated," Muelder said. "The map reveals the remarkably important contributions of people in the Midwest -- from Ohio through Illinois and into Iowa, from Michigan to Minnesota."

In the Galesburg area, the map highlights historical figures George Washington Gale, founder of Knox College and Galesburg; and Jonathan Blanchard, the second president of Knox. Both were anti-slavery activists -- Gale was indicted for harboring escaped slaves, while Blanchard worked for the abolitionist Liberty Party.

In Galesburg, the map indicates the grave sites of historical figures buried in Hope Cemetery, as well as the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate Site, a National Historic Landmark at Old Main on the Knox College campus.

The map also indicates western and central Illinois locations where Knox trustees Samuel G. Wright and William Phelps helped guide escaped slaves through the area. Wright operated a station on the Underground Railroad at his farm in Stark County; a barn on Phelps's farm in Peoria County is believed to have served as an Underground Railroad signal station.

Muelder has spoken widely about abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. He is the author of two books, "The Underground Railroad in Illinois," and "Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society."