CHICAGO – A short video released by statewide historic preservation nonprofit Landmarks Illinois tells the important, yet perhaps not well-known, story of the Underground Railroad in Illinois. The video focuses on three specific and documented Underground Railroad Sites in the state: the Owen Lovejoy Homestead in Princeton, the Sheldon Peck Homestead in Lombard and Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chicago.
The roughly six-minute video, titled “People Saving Places: The Underground Railroad in Illinois,” successfully weaves together the collective history of three Illinois Underground Railroad sites and tells the inspiring true stories of Illinois residents and abolitionists helping former slaves find freedom in the mid-19th century. To watch the video, visit Landmarks Illinois’ YouTube Channel.
“People Saving Places: The Underground Railroad in Illinois,” was directed by University of Chicago student Catalina Parra. Alongside Landmarks Illinois staff, Parra traveled to the Underground Railroad sites featured in the video in the fall of 2018 to film and interview subject matter experts.
“Traveling to the three sites featured in this video opened me up to the expansive history Illinois has,” said Parra. “This specific part of our state’s past focuses on important people and places making a difference despite the obstacles they faced. It was surreal being in the homes and spaces occupied by some of Illinois’ abolitionists, and it led me to reflect deeply on how these places influence us today.”
The production of this short film marks the second phase of the “People Saving Places” student video program Landmarks Illinois launched in 2016, aimed at engaging young people in preservation and sharing stories of Illinois’ residents saving places important to them, their communities and our state’s cultural heritage.
The recent video project was made possible thanks to generous funding from Illinois Humanities, the Richard and Julie Moe Family Fund, a fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Patricia Joseph. Illinois Humanities funded Landmarks Illinois through its Forgotten Illinois Grant Program in 2018 – a program created for the state’s bicentennial to tell lesser-known stories of its 200-year history.
“The inspiring stories of Illinois’ Underground Railroad sites should be shared, not forgotten,” said Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO. “Our video shines a deserving light on the vital keepers of this history. Telling their stories will engage new champions to preserve places of conscience and reconciliation with injustice in our nation.”