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Knox College Library
Special Collections and Archives
371 S. West Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College
Owen W. Muelder graduated from Knox College in 1963 and received his master's degree from Miami University, Ohio, in 1966. He was an administrator at Knox College for 36 years, retiring as the Director of Alumni Affairs in the spring of 2004. He was appointed Director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College in July of 2004. The Knox College Freedom Center was officially recognized by the National Park Service "Network to Freedom" Program in 2006.
Publications, Lectures, and Awards
Owen Muelder has delivered more than 250 lectures on the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement to various groups that have included historical societies, service clubs, teachers' associations, and other organizations in Illinois and across the country. He was a delegate to the National Park Service's First National Conference on the Underground Railroad held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2003, and delivered the keynote address at the Freedom Trails Legacy of Hope conference at Illinois College in 2004. In August of 2005, his interview was the feature presentation of "Eye on Illinois" by the Illinois Radio Network.
In addition, Mr. Muelder has spoken at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been interviewed by National Public Radio, and has appeared on PBS television documentaries, regional television news programs, and the Illinois P.E.G. television network. Two maps he created, one of Western Illinois UGRR sites and another of underground railroad locations in Galesburg, have been displayed in the library of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Muelder was a 2006 lecturer at the Borderlands IV National Underground Railroad Conference at Northern Kentucky University. He was a presenter in the fall of 2007 at the Frederick Douglass International Underground Railroad Conference in Rochester, New York. In 2009, he lectured at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, to the National Abolition Hall of Fame, and also made a presentation at the Third Annual Network to Freedom National UGRR Conference in Indianapolis. In February 2012, Muelder delivered a speech about abolitionist Congressman Owen Lovejoy to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., which was broadcast on C-SPAN3. In November of 2012, he was a presenter at the Social Science History Associations Annual Conference in Vancouver, B.C. and in 2013 he presented a paper at the annual conference of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2014, he was the recipient of a Knox College Alumni Achievement Award, and he was also awarded the Underground Railroad Free Press Prize for Preservation. In 2016, he was made a consultant to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site Illinois Slavery to Freedom Project. In 2017, as part of the celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday and black history month, Muelder was a featured historian discussing the Underground Railroad on the nationally and internationally televised program Hidden History. In 2019, he was a lecturer for the Illinois Holocaust Museum / Chicago History Museum Illinois Slavery Project. In 2021, he chaired the committee that gained recognition from the National Park Service "Network to Freedom" Program for the Old Knoxville Illinois Courthouse. He currently writes book reviews for the UGRR Free Press and serves as a Peer Review Reader for the State Historical Society of Iowa.
His articles about 19th-century Illinois history have appeared in scholarly journals and other publications. His book, The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois, was released by McFarland Press in January 2008. Muelder is also the Knox College site coordinator of the National Park Service 150th anniversary American Civil War Project. He has served on the NPS Network to Freedom Association National Conference Advisory Board. In 2009, Muelder was appointed as a member of the board of directors of the National Railroad Hall of Fame. His essay, "Christmas the Same as Any Other Day," was included in the anthology, Christmas in Illinois, in 2010. Muelder's second book, Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society, was released by McFarland Press in September 2011.
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