Underground Railroad Task Force meets for first time

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(The Center Square) – The Underground Railroad Task Force met for the first time and laid out plans for the upcoming year.

Formed last year, the new legislative group consists of Illinois state lawmakers, officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois State Historical Society. Task force members will focus on the history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois.

The Underground Railroad was formed in the 19th century and was a manmade system of tracks and routes that would lead enslaved Americans to northern cities or Canada in an effort to reach freedom.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, discussed the agenda for the year.

“We had our first meeting today, we just kind of exchanged ideas but it was nice to see that the energy is there all around a singular focus and that is how to promote Illinois and the rich history we have,” Koehler said.

Koehler said he wants Illinoisans to share their history.

“There is a lot of energy out there,” Koehler said. “There is a lot of people who have uncovered certain aspects of their own community or their own family and we want to help them tell their story. This is an exciting venture.”

State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said the group will be working on a number of different projects that focus on Illinois history.

“The bravery and endurance from freedom seekers and those who protected them is just incredible,” Tracy said. “It needs to be told and I am proud to be a part of Illinois’ rich history and I am proud that Illinois has such a rich history.”

The group must create a history of the Underground Railroad in Illinois and deliver the report to the governor and General Assembly by July 1.

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