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Lives in Code: Stories of African American Resilience (The Illinois Black Codes, 1819-1865)

July 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Join historian and educator, Caroline Kisiel, for a history of the Illinois Black Codes, sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Speaker Bureau. This event will be held on Zoom.

As the home of celebrated champions of freedom such as Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, it is often surprising for Illinoisans to learn about the long history of slavery, racial segregation, and exclusion in Illinois’s past.

Federally obligated by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to pass its constitution as a free state in 1818, residents in the region prior to Illinois statehood had practiced slavery and indentured servitude since the 1700s. This laid the groundwork for a series of harsh laws passed post-statehood called the Illinois Black Codes, which regulated the lives of enslaved people, indentured servants, and free Blacks in Illinois from 1819-1865 – a period of 46 years.

Caroline Kisiel is a public historian and educator who has been teaching for over 25 years. With a background in immigration law, literature, history, storytelling, and performance, Kisiel writes and presents on early-Illinois history and is currently conducting research on the role of Albion, Illinois in the struggle to keep Illinois slavery-free in the early years of statehood as well as research on stories of African American resilience under the Illinois Black Codes.

Kisiel showcases researched information and historical documents, and facilitates audience engagement activities around questions of the value of history and activism through themes of early Illinois struggles to keep slavery at bay in the state, the fight for African American rights, and key early Illinois figures in this period who fought against racism and exclusion—and persevered despite the odds.

This event is being produced in partnership with Illinois Humanities. The Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau invites Illinois authors, artists, and educations to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout the state, enabling local nonprofit organizations to present free-admission cultural programs to their communities.

The Library is committed to making programs accessible for all. If you need an accommodation to attend a program, please let the Library know at least two weeks in advance. To request an accommodation, contact the Programming and Outreach Manager via email at programming@urbanafree.org or via phone at 217-367-4057.


July 6, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm