Sen. Dave Koelher

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler passed a measure to create awareness of the history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois.

“Illinois played a significant role towards the path of freedom that has usually gone unnoticed,” said 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.”

Senate Bill 1623 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.

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.

“This task force will give students and residents a view of the rich history that exists throughout our communities,” said Koehler. “Educational opportunities like these will give residents and non-residents a new perspective on slavery and its impact toward our nation.”

This bipartisan bill was initiated by Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman in the hopes of bringing awareness to this important part of our state’s history.

“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 give 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.”

Senate Bill 1623 was signed into law on Friday.