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Illinois task force created to highlight Underground Railroad history

Woodlawn Farm in Jacksonville, an Underground Railroad stop
Woodlawn Farm in Jacksonville, an Underground Railroad stop

A new state law aims to bring awareness of the state’s ties to the Underground Railroad.

It creates the Underground Railroad Task Force. The group will develop a statewide plan to connect existing local projects and new projects to create a cohesive statewide history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois, while developing new educational and tourism opportunities.

According to the law, the task force will identify where historical sites are located, connections they may have to one another, and will paint a picture to recognize the history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois. It will also introduce educational and tourism opportunities throughout the state.

“Illinois played a significant role towards the path of freedom that has usually gone unnoticed,” said Sen. Dave Koehler (D–Peoria). “This task force will bring to light the efforts Illinoisans went through to help slaves on their journey, and map the route across the state.”

“It’s time we bring to light our history that led us to where we are today,” said Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield). “Illinois played a crucial role in freeing slaves and we need to recognize the pioneers who fought for the rights of African Americans, giving them the freedom and justice they deserved.”

The governor signed SB 1623 and the bipartisan effort was initiated by Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman.

“Currently, there are many regional landmarks of the Underground Railroad throughout the state, but there is really no way of connecting them together," said Ackerman. “This task force gives us the ability to tie all of these regional pockets together to tell the story of just how long the path the Underground Rail Road was in Illinois, and the lengths that abolitionists and slaves took in search of freedom.”

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