Illinois’ history with slavery and its links to the present
When Illinois was admitted to the union, it was as a free state, as opposed to a slave state, but that was just one chapter in the long history of slavery and its legacy in Illinois, dating all the way back to the 1600s, when French settlers brought slaves with them as they came to the area. It continued under English rule into Illinois’ days as a territory and didn’t go away completely until 1848’s state constitution.
Two centuries ago this year, in 1823, some pro-slavery legislators tried to call a new state constitutional convention so that they could allow slavery in Illinois, beyond what the then-current constitution allowed. Ultimately in late 1824, the voters defeated the proposal, but the impact of those votes, the debate surrounding them, and the region’s long history of slavery and other racist policies still resonates two centuries later.
The 21st spent the entire hour diving into that history and what it means for the present day with a panel of historical researchers.
Associate Professor, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University | Illinois Humanities Road Scholar
Graduate student in history, Jackson State University, Mississippi
Professor of Sociology, Wheaton College
Prepared for web by Owen Henderson
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