The 21st Show

‘Reflections Of An Undocumented Immigrant’; The ‘Old Slave House’; Joffrey Ballet


University of Illinois Press

On this encore edition of the 21st: Our conversation with Jose Angel N., author of 'Illegal: Reflections Of An Undocumented Immigrant.' Plus, the story of a house in southern Illinois whose owner kidnapped free black men and women -- and sold them back into slavery in Kentucky. And, we revisit our interview about the Joffrey Ballet's 8th Annual 'Winning Works' competition.

What does it mean to live in among the shadows as an undocumented immigrant in the United States.? Jose Angel N. left Guadalajara as a teenager, and for more than 20 years he's lived in this country, mostly in the Chicago area. He’s the author of a memoir called Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant. It’s a haunting account of his life in Chicago. The book has been adopted as a reading requirement for numerous Latino study courses across the country.


Back in 1838, a white man named John Crenshaw had a house built in southern Illinois, just twenty miles from the Kentucky border. He called it ‘Hickory Hill’ but locals began calling it the Crenshaw House—or, the Old Slave House.

Illinois was officially a free state back then. But the state still allowed for indentured servitude, with contracts that lasted decades. And, with the slave state of Kentucky just across the border, Crenshaw was believed to have kidnapped free black men and women, and sold them back into slavery.

It’s just one piece of Illinois history. The National Parks Service has identified it as a historic ‘station’ on what’s known as the ‘Reverse Underground Railroad.’ But, nobody’s sure what will happen to the Old Slave House now, even though it’s owned by the state of Illinois. 

To learn more about the history of the Crenshaw house, we were joined by Molly Parker who is a reporter with the Southern Illinoisan, as well as Mark Wagner who is the director of SIU’s Center for Archaeological Investigations.


We’ve all seen dance competitions on TV - whether it’s Dance Moms or So You Think You Can Dance. But the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago is offering the real deal through it’s Joffrey Academy of Dance.

The Eighth Annual Winning Works Choreographic Competition gives choreographers from around the world the chance to showcase their productions at the Joffrey.

The academy focused on calling out to all "ALAANA" artists, which stands for African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab and Native American for this competition. And the four choreographers who won this year’s competition had their productions performed at the Edlis Neeson Theater at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art back in March.

One of the winning choreographers is a native of Chicago: Luis Vasquez. He graduated from the University of Illinois, where he studied Dance, and he went on to join Thodos Dance Chicago. We were also joined by Joffrey Artistic Director Ashley Wheater.

Story source: WILL