In this episode of Black Folklore, host Grant Yanney tells the story of ‘Free’ Frank McWorter And the abolitionist town of New Philadelphia.
To read the entire story about ‘Free’ Frank McWorter, click here.
In 1819, just 43 years after this country was founded, a Black man purchased his freedom from his slave owner. His journey afterward would be one of the greatest American tales in over 200 years–a history lesson Black Folklore just couldn’t pass up.
This is the Black Folklore story of ‘Free’ Frank McWorter and his Black Illinois town he built just 20 miles from a slave market.
‘Free’ Frank was an entrepreneur, a visionary, a family man, and one of the most interesting Black men in American history. But ‘Free’ Frank wasn’t always free.
In 1777, Frank was born a slave in South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. His mother Juda was a slave to George McWhorter, a Scotch-Irish man whom historians believe was likely Frank’s father.
Master-slave sexual intercourse was frequent in the Antebellum South. Women were forced and manipulated into consensual sexual relations with their owners. The children were then turned into slaves.
In 1795 George McWhorter and his slaves left South Carolina for Kentucky’s Pennyroyal Frontier.
Life in Kentucky was a lot different than in South Carolina. The land was less forgiving and many land owners focused on survival.
A shortage of jobs coupled with slavers’ greed created an interesting opportunity for Frank. Because there were not enough people to handle many of the jobs on the Frontier, slaves could hire out their extra time to other settlers. Settlers would pay slaves for their work, then slave owners would take a cut of the profits.
But Frank had a plan to get himself and his family out of bondage. He worked non-stop day and night until he was able to save up enough money to leave bondage in the past.
In 1817 Frank purchased his wife’s freedom from George McWhorter. Once his wife was free he got back on the grind and worked and worked until by 1819 he had saved up enough to purchase his freedom from his father.
The slave known as Frank formally changed his name to ‘Free’ Frank and his legend began to grow.
If you want to read more original Black Folklore stories CLICK HERE.
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