I didn’t attend Wheaton College, but I do live in the town and grew up right next door in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. I have a lot of connections to the college–friends who are both staff and students. So it was fascinating to read that the school has recently confirmed that it was part of the Underground Railroad. Dr. David Maas–who I attended church with as a kid–uncovered the evidence while doing research for a book. Apparently Blanchard Hall, the historic stone building in the center of campus, was used to hide runaway slaves on their journey. Below is part of the article from The Daily Herald.
An entry buried in a 120-year-old manuscript has confirmed what local historians long have believed: Wheaton College was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Officials said they knew the college was founded and led by abolitionists. But it was difficult to substantiate the claim that the school – called Illinois Institute at the time – was directly involved with the network of stops and routes that aided escaping slaves. “We never had the hard evidence that strict historians want to see,” said David Malone, the college’s head of archives and special collections. That changed earlier this year when Wheaton College history professor David Maas was doing research for a book. Following a tip from a friend, Maas found an entry in an 1889 book about the 39th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry that refers to Wheaton College as “an Abolition school in an Abolition town.”
The timing of the article is interesting. On Saturday night my wife and I attended a benefit dinner in Chicago for International Justice Mission (IJM). The non-profit is spearheading a “new abolition movement” because there are more slaves in the world today that at any time in history. It was wonderful hearing from Gary Haugen about his passion for confronting evil in our world today… and he was bold in declaring that there is just plain “evil” in some places. Gary was the UN investigator in Rwanda after the genocide in 1994, and he continues to travel the world seeking justice for children sold as sex-slaves, families living in forced labor camps, and those wrongfully imprisoned by authorities without proper investigations. If you’ve come to recognize the deep connections between the gospel and justice, between Christ’s mission to “set the prisoners free” and our call to do the same, then I highly recommend learning more about the work of IJM. Here’s a short video to introduce you to their work:
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