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ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. I got into town just after sunset. So I went in, too. I took a seat at the bar. A man two stools over from me struck up a conversation.

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The first Africans arrived in when Illinois was part of the French colony of Louisiana Illinois would not become a state until The mines were unsuccessful, and Renault sold his slaves to settlers in the area. Bywhen the French surrendered control of Illinois to the British, the slave population was nearly six hundred.

Illinois was first claimed by American government inand nine years later it was declared by the Northwest Ordinance to be part of the Northwest Territory. The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery but allowed slave owners from other areas to reclaim escaped slaves from the Territory.

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The Ordinance was unpopular with some slave-owning settlers, who believed that they would be forced to give up their slaves. However, Territorial governor Arthur St. Clair interpreted the controversial Ordinance to mean that no new slaves could be brought into the Territory but that those already there could legally remain slaves.

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In Illinois became part of the Indiana Territory, which was created from the old Northwest Territory. Indentured servitude allowed landowners to acquire cheap labor despite the prohibition of slavery in the Indiana Territory. Some residents wanted slavery to be permitted. However, Illinois was admitted to the Union in as a free state.

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However, the constitution of allowed for limited slavery in the salt mines and allowed current slave owners to retain there slaves. The General Assembly also passed legislation that severely curtailed the rights of free blacks residing in the state and discouraged the migration of free blacks.

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Elijah Lovejoy was an important abolitionist. He published a newspaper, The Observer, which attacked the evils of slavery. His views were unpopular in his home state of Missouri. His printing press was destroyed, and he was forced out of St. Across the Mississippi River, at Alton, Illinois, Lovejoy set up a new press and renewed his attacks on slavery. Businessmen in Alton, under pressure from those in St. In the fall ofLovejoy angered local pro-slavery forces when he co-founded the Illinois Anti-Slavery Society.

While Lovejoy and his abolitionist friends kept watch over the new press in an Alton warehouse, an armed pro-slavery mob gathered to demand Lovejoy turn over his press.

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Lovejoy refused and the mob prepared to set fire to the building. Lovejoy ran out of the warehouse in an attempt to stop the fire, but was killed by gunfire. Several others protecting the press were injured and eventually fled the warehouse. The mob then seized the press and threw it out the third-story window of the warehouse. A complex system of routes and hiding places called the Underground Railroad helped an estimated 45, slaves achieve freedom. Known to have existed as early asthe Underground Railroad was increasingly more active following the War of By the s Illinois and other northern states had become a part of the network.

Illinois had stops and hiding places in cities and towns such as Chicago, Quincy, Alton, and Chester. Owen Lovejoy, Dr. Richard Eells of Quincy, and Julius A. Willard of Jacksonville were key leaders of the system in Illinois.

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Some slaves were able to purchase their freedom. As an adult, Frank hired himself out for an annual cash payment. He also began a saltpeter making business and managed to buy his freedom by the time he was He moved to Kentucky and later to west central Illinois where he founded the township of New Philadelphia in There he began farming and raising stock.

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Still other slaves used the court systems to try to gain freedom. In a slave, Dred Scott, petitioned the courts in Missouri for his freedom. At the trial he claimed he should be free because he had resided in Illinois and in the Wisconsin Territory where slavery was banned. The grounds for that decision were that a slave had no rights under the constitution and therefore could not bring suit. Soon a battle for civil rights and the Union was underway. With the election of Abraham Lincoln as president inmany southern states seceded from the Union.

Inthe first black Union regiments were organized and about 1, blacks from Illinois enlisted. One regiment, the 29th U. Colored Infantry, fought with great courage at the Battle of the Crater Virginia in Eager to fight for the freedom of their fellow blacks, they advanced yards before falling back.

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Members of the 29th were mustered out of service in November, The United States Congress ended the legal institution of slavery with the passage of the 13th Amendment in To help ensure the rights of newly freed blacks, the 14th Amendment was passed in This amendment provided for equal protection under the law and allowed Congress the authority to enforce the Amendment with additional legislation.

Black men were given the right to vote in by passing the 15th Amendment.

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Instate laws forbidding segregation were passed. The Illinois Civil Rights Act of was passed forbidding discrimination in public facilities and places such as hotels, rail ro, theatres, and restaurants. But anti-discrimination laws had little effect on long standing racial tensions.

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Several race riots erupted in the new century. Ina riot broke out in the city of Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln had lived for many years before his election as president in The riot lead to the lynching of two black men. Four white men were killed, many others were injured, and the black section of Springfield was demolished by fires and vandalism.

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These events shocked the state and the nation. Race riots also occurred in St. Louis in and in Chicago in Racial tensions continued even as blacks headed overseas to fight in World War I. Illinois senttroops to Europe. Among them were several black units, including the 8th Infantry Regiment.

The 8th, re-deated the th Infantry of the 93rd Division, was the first American regiment to reach the French fortress at Laon. They fought bravely to drive the enemy out of France and take back the French fortress.

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The regiment also fought in the last battle of the war. Shortly after the Armistice was ed the th captured a fifty-car German train and its crew.

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Duncan received the Distinguished Service Medal. France also recognized 68 men of this courageous regiment with its Croix de Guerre.

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The regiment was demobilized at Camp Grant in Illinois on March 3, More African Americans were elected to public office and attained jobs in arenas where no other blacks had ly served. John W. Thomas was elected state representative in Republican Oscar DePriest was elected the first black alderman in Chicago in In Chicago elected Albert B.

George its first black municipal court judge, Adelbert H. Roberts was the first black elected to serve on the Illinois State Senate, and Vivian Gordon Harsh was appointed the first black librarian at the Chicago Public Library. Arthur W. Mitchell was elected the first black Democrat to the U. House of Representatives in Two important legislative measures forbidding discrimination on state contracts for public works and buildings, and on contracts for defense were passed in During the Great Depression black protests against discrimination increased.

Blacks began to boycott businesses in black neighborhoods that would not hire black workers. In the North, blacks also held school boycotts in response to the poor treatment of their children. Under the influence of his wife Eleanor, President Franklin D.

Roosevelt opened federal jobs to blacks. The squadron saw little action, but many blacks fought bravely for their country in World War II. Many Southern blacks who had not gone to war migrated to northern and western cities for new jobs in the wartime economy. At the end of the war, President Harry S. Truman, despite opposition, desegregated the U. Following the war, racial tensions began to grow again.