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Time Team America: New Philadelphia, Illinois

Time Team America: New Philadelphia, Illinois
NATIONWIDE  •  PBS Television  •  Ongoing

Based on the popular science-reality British series, Time Team America follows a team of archaeologists, geologists, geophysicists and scientific experts as they unearth some of America's most intriguing archaeological sites. Manifestly tied to the public's appetite for police forensic television dramas, America's Time Team has only 72 hours to uncover the buried secrets of their assigned digs using the latest technology.

Thus far, the reality series has focused on site excavations at Fort Raleigh, North Carolina, and the alligator swamps of the Topper site in South Carolina to search for evidence of North America’s first human inhabitants.

Airing on PBS stations Wednesday 22 July at 8 pm EST /7 CT, an all-new episode entitled, New Philadelphia, Illinois, documents Time Team America as it digs for the remains of the first American town founded by former slaves. 

In 1836 “Free Frank” McWorter purchased his freedom from a Kentucky plantation owner and headed North.  When he reached Illinois, he planted roots, started a town, and sold enough property to purchase the rest of his family out of slavery.  Now farmers’ fields cover this dramatic testament to victory over enslavement. The local landowners, descendants of the town’s residents, and the McWorter family want to uncover what remains of New Philadelphia to commemorate its place in history.  Time Team America joins in the search for the pre-Civil War schoolhouse where New Philadelphia’s African American children learned to read and write in freedom. 

Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1777, Frank McWorter moved to Kentucky with his owner in 1795. Allowed to hire out his own time, Frank bought his wife Lucy’s freedom in 1817, and his own in 1819.  “Free Frank” McWorter eventually purchased the freedom of at least sixteen family members.

Even though Frank McWorter had purchased his freedom, he still had to cross the free state of Illinois with great trepidation.  There was a risk that slave catchers would capture him, steal his papers, and sell him back into bondage.  It took McWorter six months to travel from Kentucky to Central Illinois.

When Frank McWorter founded New Philadelphia, Illinois state law did not provide for the public education of all children.  Although Illinois was a free state and New Philadelphia itself was integrated, state education funds were apportioned according to the number of white children in a school district.

A plow zone is the layer of soil that has been churned up by years of farming.  Archaeologists may find artifacts in this layer, but they would have been moved with the soil.  Without context, archaeologists can’t scientifically create associations between objects and make conclusions about a site.

Archaeologists use food remains to make conclusions about a site.  For example, at New Philadelphia, animal and plant remains show an evidence of both a northern diet, based on beef and wheat, and a southern diet based on pork and corn.

PBS Television Time Team America Website

Detailed schedule information:
Wednesday 22 July at 8 pm EST / 7 CT


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