Black Organizing in Pre-Civil War Illinois: Creating Community, Demanding Justice

Bird’s Eye View of Chicago, 1853 (Source: Wikimedia Commons and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Libraries, American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection, Chicago in early days, 1779-1857 [Chicago: Kurz & Allison, 1893]).

A repressive new law, passed by the state legislature in winter 1853, galvanized Black Illinoisans to organize their first statewide convention. Illinois leaders pressed Frederick Douglass to call a national convention that summer. Then, in October, delegates from across the state met in Chicago, where they issued a powerful address claiming their rights as citizens and made plans for continuing to fight the Illinois Black laws.

Prelude to the Convention

At the Convention

After the Convention