Knockin’ On Freedom’s Door (Peoria, IL)


Dublin Core


Knockin’ On Freedom’s Door (Peoria, IL)


Subject (Topic)
Antislavery movements--United States
Fugitive slaves--United States
Underground Railroad
Slavery-- Abolition
American Midwest
Subject (Name)
Pettengill, Moses,1802-1883
Pettengill, Lucy,1802-1864
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Subject (Object Type)
Commemorative sculpture


Preston Jackson‘s monumental bronze and stainless steel Knockin’ on Freedom’s Door is located on the site of the former Pettengill House in Peoria, an important station on the Underground Railroad. The work features multiple bronze sculptural groups within a stainless steel frame. The sculptural grouping includes a male and female freedom seeker, climbing out of a small rowboat as two white members of the Underground Railroad look down upon the pair. The pair of Underground Railroad conductors are presumably Moses and Lucy Pettengill. Moses holds a bucket of water in one hand and a ladle in the other, while Lucy clutches at her chest. At the very top of the sculpture, looking down over the scene is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in profile.


Jackson, Preston, 1944-


Dedicated: October 24th, 2008






Visual Arts-Sculpture


Peoria Civic Center, 201 SW Jefferson Ave, Peoria, IL 61602, United States

Has Part

First bronze plaque:

“Knocking on Freedom's Door”

Preston Jackson, Sculptor

Dedicated October 24, 2008

From the 1840s to 1860s, the Moses and Lucy Pettengill House at the corner of Liberty and Jefferson was a safe house for hunted slaves escaping north along the Underground Railroad to freedom.

In 2003, the Peoria Civic Center Authority voted to develop the Pettengill housing location as Peoria's newest historic site. In Dec. 2005, the National Park Service officially named Peoria as the 11th Illinois Underground Railway Network to Freedom Historic Site.

Preston Jackson, internationally known African American sculptor and a resident of Peoria, was commissioned to create a public artwork that expressed the drama and raw emotions of slaves’ flight to the north along with the generosity of Pettengills, close friends of Abraham Lincoln.

Generous support made this project possible, particularly from:
Dr. Norman & Barbara Meyn
Caterpillar Foundation
National Park Service
Turner Construction Company
Oberlander Electric
Advanced Technology Services
AmerenCilco//Bill & Helen Barrick
Ken & Jody Baum
Brewer’s Distrubuting
Commerce Bancshares Foundation
Dr. Peter & Barbara Court
PSA Dewberry
Harvey & Stuckel, Chartered
HOK Sports Facilities Group
Illinois Mutual
Micro-Pavers, INC.
Selma E. Neumiller
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
Tom & Debbie Ritschel
Ransburg Foundation
RLI Insurance Company
Gene & Harriet Swager
West Central IL Building & Construction Trades Council
Ruby K. Warner Family Trust

Second plaque, which includes a relief of the home of Moses and Lucy Pettengill:

“On this site stood the house of Moses and Lucy Pettengill Moses Pettengill [1802-1883] Lucy Pettengill [1802-1864] The house was noted as Peoria's station on the Underground Railway Network from the 1840s to the 1860s. Fleeing slaves were given food and refuge in this home. The Pettengills helped the escaping slaves with their dangerous journey along the Illinois River on their way to Farmington, Lawn Ridge and Princeton. The Pettengills assisted in founding: Illinois State Anti-Slavery Society [Oct 1837] Peoria Anti-Slavery Society [Feb 1844] Illinois State Female Anti-Slavery Society [May 1844] Abraham Lincoln was their intimate friend, and came to the home many times to discuss political affairs with the ardent Whigs. “In my own experience of about fifty years of opposition to intemperance, Secret Societies, and slavery, I have had the blessing of an approving conscience which is far more valuable than gold and silver.” -

Moses Pettengill [1879]"


360'' (914.4 cm)


Stainless steel; Cast bronze

Bibliographic Citation

Leslie Renken, "Preston Jackson and Peoria: A mutually beneficial relationship," The Journal Star. Accessed April 15, 2019,

Rights Holder

Renée Ater

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format


Physical Dimensions

360'' (914.4 cm)


Jackson, Preston, 1944-, “Knockin’ On Freedom’s Door (Peoria, IL),” Contemporary Monuments to the Slave Past, accessed May 16, 2021,


Item Relations

This item has no relations.