FACTS RELATED TO ILLINOIS STATE CLAIMS
109. Illinois significantly supported the institution of slavery. The first African arrived there in 1720 when Illinois was part of the French colony of Louisiana (Illinois would not Case 1:02-cv-07764 Document 58 Filed 06/17/2003 Page 58 of 125 become a state until 1818). A Frenchman, Phillipe Renault, put enslaved Africans to work in saline (salt) mines near the French-built Fort de Charles in Randolf Country. These mines were unsuccessful and Renault sold his slaves to settlers in the area. By 1763, when the French surrendered control of Illinois to the British, the population of enslaved Africans was nearly six hundred.
110. Illinois was first claimed by the American government in 1778 and nine years later, 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.
111. The Ordinance was unpopular to some slave-owning settlers who believed they would be forced to give up their slaves. However, their concerns were soon assuaged by the Territorial Governor, Arthur St. Clair, who interpreted the Ordinance to mean no new slaves could be brought in to the territory, but those there could legally remain enslaved.
112. In 1800, Illinois became part of the Indiana Territory, created from the former Northwest Territory. The territorial government enacted a “Black Code” that effectually barred enslaved Africans from gaining their freedom by permitting lengthy terms of “indentured servitude,” which bound workers to a particular person for a period of time in exchange for shelter and food. Indentured servitude allowed landowners to utilize unpaid labor, despite the prohibition against slavery in the Territory.
113. The institution of slavery was still supported when Illinois entered into the Union as a state in 1818. Although admitted as a free state, the Constitution of 1818 allowed for limited slavery in the salt mines and allowed current slave owners to retain their slaves. Additionally, the General Assembly passed legislation that severely curtailed the rights of free blacks residing within the state and discouraged the migration of free blacks. If a black person was unable to present proof of their freedom, they could be fined $50.00 or sold by the Sheriff to the highest bidder. Not long after the passage of the Constitution, the state's general assembly adopted a pro-slavery resolution that announced its approval of slavery in slave-holding states and at the same time, it condemned the formation of abolition societies within Illinois boundaries.
114. Although, Illinois is largely hailed as a stop along the Underground Railroad, the path from slavery to freedom, little is written about the reverse Underground Railroad, the path from freedom to slavery, whereby free blacks were kidnapped and sold into slavery. The kidnapping of free blacks was a prevalent problem as articulated in the Complete History of Illinois, published in 1876:
... the crime of seizing free blacks, running them south and selling them into slavery from this state was quite common... [P]ortions of Southern Illinois for many years afforded a safe retreat to those kidnapping outlaws. We cannot count the numerous cases of kidnapping.
115. Although, the Black Code of 1819, allowed for a fine of $1,000 to be levied on behalf of the victim, it did not provide for criminal conviction. As black people could not testify in court against a white person, the law was virtually useless. The practice of kidnapping continued until after the Civil War.
116. Despite Illinois' repeal of the “Black Codes” in 1865, racial tension and discrimination continued. In 1908, a riot broke out in Springfield, Illinois that lead to the lynching of two black men. As a result, the African-American section of Springfield was demolished by fires and vandalism.