The issue of slavery and racial discrimination is a thread that runs through the center of American history's fabric. The background information presented in the previous pages and the student activities that follow provide a beginning for students to
examine this crucial and ongoing issue.
Students will begin their study by exploring
and analyzing the place of the Black Codes
in the history of Illinois. They may then
examine the relationship of the Black Codes
to the larger context of U.S. history and
learn that very little happens in specific
instances that is not related to a much larger whole. Students will study the Black
Codes in terms of law, people, and the relationship of the past to the present.
Connection with the Curriculum
The materials in this section may be
used in both social studies and language
arts classes. These materials are appropriate for the study of Illinois and U.S. history,
political science, law, and government. They
may also be used to develop research and
writing skills. Using these materials will
develop critical thinking skills. Many of the
activities are also appropriate for speech
Grades 7-12. The ability and age of the
students will determine the depth and scope
of their use.
Materials for Each Student
• A copy of the narrative portion of this
• Access to books on Illinois history
Lerone Bennett, Before the Mayflower:
A History of the Negro in America
Norman Dwight Harris, The History of
Negro Servitude in Illinois, and of
the Slavery Agitation in That State, 1719-1864
Melvin G. Holli and Peter d'A. Jones,
Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State
Stetson Kennedy, Jim Crow Guide: The Way It Was
Frank B. Latham, The Rise and Fall of "Jim Crow," 1865-1964
Stephen Middleton, The Black Law in the Old Northwest
Robert M. Sutton, The Heartland: Pages From Illinois History
Dempsey J. Travis, An Autobiography of Black Chicago
Objectives for Each Student
• Explore how the Black Codes in Illinois
developed from the history of slavery in
the Old Northwest Territory.
• Examine how slavery and racial discrimination were encoded in the Illinois
constitution and laws.
• Investigate several of the people who
struggled on different sides of the slavery issue in Illinois.
• Develop an historical perspective on
how Illinois' Black Codes persisted
even after 1870 in the Jim Crow laws
and practices in Illinois and in other
• Compare and contrast different beliefs
about slavery and the Black Codes.
• Use primary and secondary sources to
• Evaluate relationships between local
and national events.
TEACHING THE LESSON
A variety of activities is presented in
each of the four aspects of the lesson to
allow the teacher flexibility to choose the
number, degree of complexity or difficulty,
and time frame that will best suit his/her
needs. The activities may be done individually, in small groups, or as a class.
Opening the Lesson
To introduce the idea of the Black Codes,
discuss with the class laws that limit them
because of age, such as, curfews, job limits,
driver's license, voting, or marriage. Then
read and discuss the narrative portion of
Developing the Lesson
To develop the lesson, read and discuss
the introductory information on each handout. Then activities can be assigned, or chosen by students. The teacher or class can
decide to deal with all three aspects of the
issue or to select from them; however, a
better understanding will develop if all three
aspects are addressed.
Concluding the Lesson
After sufficient time has been given to
develop the activities, they can be presented to the class as a whole. A concluding
discussion can be used to tie the various
activities together showing their relationships.
Extending the Lesson
Further activities may be chosen,
developed, and presented. A class may
compile its work in a display for other
classes. Presentations may be given to
Assessing the Lesson
All of the activities are designed to
require student products. These can then be
assessed to determine student understanding of the concepts involved. They can also
be used to evaluate student skill levels in
researching, writing, speaking, and creativity. Students can judge each other's
products as well.
Article I, Section 9-1. "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states
now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the
year one thousand eight hundred and eight..."
Article IV, Section 2-3. "No person held to Service or Labour in one state, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be
discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the Party to
whom such Service or Labour may be due."
Northwest Ordinance -1787
Article VI. "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory,
otherwise than for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."
Regarding the Ordinance of I803 (The Black Laws of the Old Northwest)
"Illinois and Indiana whites began their scheming of circumventing the Ordinance of
1803 when they inaugurated the indentured servitude system. The law permitted immigrating slave holders to bring enslaved African-Americans into their regions as [indentured]
Laws of Illinois - Approved December 8, 1813
Section I. "It shall not be lawful for any free negro or mulatto to migrate in this Territory."
Constitution of Illinois -1818
Article VI, Section I. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this state, otherwise than for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall
have been duly convicted; nor shall any male person, arrived at the age of twenty-one
years, nor female person, arrived at the age of eighteen years,
be held to serve any person as a servant, under any indenture
hereafter made, unless such person shall enter into such indenture while in a state of perfect freedom and on condition of a bona fide consideration received or to be received for their
service. Nor shall any indenture of any negro or mulatto
hereafter made and executed out of this state, or if made in
this state where the term of service exceeds one year, be of
the least validity, except those given in cases of apprenticeship."
Laws of Illinois - Approved February 1,1831
Section I. "Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois,
represented in the General Assembly, That no black or mulatto
person shall hereafter be permitted to come and reside in this
State, until such person shall have given bond and security."
Revised Statutes - Approved March 3,1845
Section I. "No black or mulatto person, shall be permitted to
reside in this State, until such person shall produce to the county
commissioners' court where he or she is desirous of settling, a
certificate of his or her freedom."
- Debate this statement: The Illinois Constitution of 1818 and laws of the early 1800s are
in agreement with the ideas on slavery expressed in the U.S. Constitution.
- Draw an editorial cartoon showing how you think Illinois failed to prohibit slavery in the
- Write a letter to the 1848 constitutional convention explaining why you think the new
constitution should state more clearly that slavery is ended in Illinois.
- Present an interview with an indentured servant living in your town in the 1840s that
gives his/her views on whether or not slavery exists.
- Defend your position as a master of ten indentured farm hands showing that you are
not in violation of the Illinois laws prohibiting slavery in the 1840s.
- Narrate the difficulties that you as a freed man moving from Missouri into Illinois
encountered in your efforts to buy a small farm in St. Clair County in 1847.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Declaration of Independence
Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the
contest, and will be more or less affected to the end of time.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
In studying the Black Codes of Illinois, as in any study of history, we are really studying
people: their motives, actions, and reactions. Therefore it would be interesting and very
insightful to get to know some of the people who struggled with this issue of slavery and
Black Codes. Some of the better known are:
Morris Birkbeck, Coles's secretary of state
Owen Lovejoy, abolitionist
Shadrach Bond, first Illinois governor
John McLean, U.S. senator
Edward Coles, second Illinois governor
Pierre Menard, first lieutenant governor
Stephen A. Douglas, U.S. senator
James Mason Peck, Baptist missionary
Ninian Edwards, U.S. senator
H. H. Richardson, American Colonization Society
John Jones, black civil rights leader
Lyman Trumbull, advocate for blacks
Abraham Lincoln, president
Richard Yates, Illinois Civil War governor
John Logan, Illinois legislator
Elijah Lovejoy, newspaper publisher
After researching one or several of the above people:
- Conduct a mock interview with one of the above on his views of the Black Codes.
- Write a newspaper article about the actions of one of the above.
- Write a campaign speech for one of the above explaining his views on slavery.
- Write a letter from John Jones to the General Assembly regarding the Black Codes.
- Present a case as Lyman Trumbull defending a black immigrant to Illinois.
- Evaluate the Lincoln-Douglas debates on the attitudes expressed toward slavery.
- Correspond as Lincoln or Douglas during the 1858 debates expressing your private
concerns for the state of Illinois regarding this issue.
- Write a newspaper obituary or eulogy for Elijah Lovejoy
- Prepare a pamphlet for the Colonization Society
- Role play as:
Shadrach Bond debating Edward Coles
John Logan debating John Jones
Elijah Lovejoy debating Stephen A. Douglas
Ninian Edwards debating Owen Lovejoy
• Write a research article on one of the above for Illinois History.
• Enter a historical exhibit on one of the above in the history fairs sponsored by the
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Some southern states boldly passed new black codes to impede the social,
political, and economic progress of former slaves. The new codes were
based on the black codes that had been written to restrict slaves in the
Patricia and Frederick McKissack,
The Civil Rights Movement in America
- Write a play in which Mississippi legislators after Reconstruction use Illinois' Black
Codes as a source of ideas for their own new laws restricting freed blacks.
- Draw a poster showing an abolitionist's desire to repeal Illinois' Black Codes during the
- Create a research project on the origin and history of Jim Crow.
- Write a research article tracing Jim Crow discrimination against blacks in jobs, housing,
and/or education during the 1900s in Illinois.
- Examine how Jim Crow voting laws prevented blacks from voting in the period between
the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Twenty-Fourth
Amendment (1964), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- Compare the work of the Wood River Colored Baptist Association in St. Clair County in
the 1800s to the work done in the 1900s in Illinois by the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, or Operation Push.
- Make a collection of newspaper articles from your town dealing with problems that
immigrant groups are having today.
- Write a newspaper article about an incident of discrimination in your town suffered by
an immigrant or minority that is similar to Jim Crow discrimination.
- Make a collection of cartoons from your local press that shows stereotyping of
minorities similar to the Jim Crow stereotype.
- Compare current U.S. immigration restrictions or practices that are similar to those
faced by blacks during the era of the Black Codes.
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