Owen Muelder, director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Knox, was awarded the Preservation Prize by the Underground Railroad Free Press this fall. Muelder’s work at Knox has focused on preserving the history of the Underground Railroad, which, according to him, aligns with the college’s goals to strive toward social justice.
The Underground Railroad Free Press’s website states that the Preservation Prize is awarded to someone who has contributed to “a significant restoration of an Underground Railroad safe-house or route … or significant promotion or advancement of the methods of Underground Railroad site preservation.”
Muelder met these qualifications. He said that Knox chose him to direct the center because they want to embrace the historical significance that the Underground Railroad has to the college.
“Knox College selected me to run this center because the college is very proud of this early heritage. Knox is a school that from the beginning attached itself to social justice and reform issues in a variety of ways.”
The seriousness with which Muelder handles his job is reflected in the success of his work.
“I have had two books published,” he said. “I’ve had articles published in scholarly publications, and I have given over 200 lectures, locally, regionally, throughout the state of Illinois [and] throughout the United States.” All of these were geared towards the preservation of the Underground Railroad.
Muelder has also given various speeches about the topic.
“I have had the opportunity to give a lot of speeches around the country, and some of these were given to international and national gatherings at prominent historical societies and organizations,” he said.
In addition, Muelder contributes to the immediate Galesburg community by “giving a number of speeches or meeting with touring groups that are coming through the [Knox] campus.”
Through his work Muelder has aimed to preserve not only the physical aspects of the Underground Railroad, but also the values that Knox was founded on: the promotion of equality and social justice for all people.