Owen Muelder, the expert on the Underground Railroad movement in Western Illinois, came into our classroom to share his wisdom about slavery and the Underground Railroad. He impressed us all with his knowledge of the origin of slavery, which began over 7000 years ago. Modern slavery started in Portugal in the early 15th century. As slavery progressed, it eventually came to the United States with the help of clipper ships. We were surprised to learn that African slaves carried elephant tusks to ships bound for the United States, to be used on pianos.
Muelder shared the fact with us that religious institutions and the Great Philosophers of the Enlightenment started the anti-slavery mindset. In America, a wide range of people benefited economically from slavery. It also took great courage to be an abolitionist during this time. Locally, there was movement as well. Men like Charles Finney and George Washington Gale had a fiery passion to share their beliefs. These ideas spread like prairie fire and led to the development of the Underground Railroad, in which Galesburg had a crucial role.