Illinois History Teacher Articles
Rights and Responsibilities in History
School Segregation in Southern Illinois: The Alton School
This article examines how the rights of African American students to be
educated in racially integrated schools were denied by the white community
of Alton, even after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of integration.
How did Alton avoid obeying the Illinois Supreme Court ruling and deny
the rights of African Americans to attend school with white students and
force them to attend inferior schools?
Was this a responsible approach to a legal decision?
Why was Alton’s decision to disobey Illinois Supreme Court ruling
a bad approach to create a more equal society?
What actions did some members of the Alton community take to intimidate
the local African American population?
Do you believe the white citizens acted in a responsible manner when they
forced the older African American student to attend class with much younger
students? Please explain your beliefs.
Why did the African Americans in Alton give up on the effort to integrate
the school system?
Proving Guilt: Anti-Conspiracy Laws of the Nineteenth Century
This article examines the Illinois legislature’s reaction to the
many intense labor disputes of the second half of the nineteenth century.
Illinois labor history is rich and had nationwide ramifications.
Students may wish to examine a labor strike in Illinois to determine what
the employees were fighting for, and whether the company was treating
workers in a responsible manner.
Were the striking workers behaving with restraint and protesting peacefully?
Researching labor-related legislation and coming to a conclusion regarding
the validity of the law and how it impacted workers’ rights, as
well as the associated industry, could be a compelling project topic.
The Haymarket Riot proved to be the most important event in Illinois labor
history and had a big impact on workers and their rights. How was the
labor strife in Illinois covered in newspapers and why?
After Haymarket many harbored bad opinions about striking workers, union
leaders, and agitators fighting against the corporate class in America.
Was this justified?
Did the labor leaders have a right to free speech even if they were advocating
against the government?
Edward Coles, Patrician Emancipator
Coles inherited slaves from his family but he choose to set them free,
giving them the right to become free citizens. This story is one of a
man acting in a responsible way towards his fellow man and giving rights
to people that previously had none under the law of Virginia. Coles was
the second Illinois governor and during his term he had to fight against
an effort to make Illinois a slave state.
What in Coles’ youth helped shape him?
Why do you think he freed his slaves?
How did Coles and his allies fight the pro-slavery movement in 1822?
Who were the people that wanted to legalize slavery and why?
What rights did Coles’ former slaves gain in Illinois?
Copperheads and Pike County in the Civil War
The article brings to light the tension resulting from political differences
during wartime and how it can impact civil rights; especially the rights
of objectors to the war.
Did Lincoln have the right and was it responsible to suspend habeas corpus;
allowing to hold people against their will and not give them a trial by
a jury of their peers?
Is it right and responsible to smear political opponents and pit one group
Mary Livermore and the Illinois Women’s Suffrage Movement
Livermore’s work in Illinois Women’s suffrage movement helped
make the state an important force on the national stage.
How did Livermore’s work during the Civil War shape her feelings
regarding the exclusion of women in the political process?
How did the Civil War sharpen her skills in the fight for the civil rights
How did Livermore promote suffrage?
The Corn Belt Liberty League Takes a Stand Against Government
The article discusses the freedom or right to resist government control
over private property and an individual’s farming operation.
Why did the small farming operations feel the Agricultural Adjustment
Act of 1938 favored larger operations and was taking away their rights?
What did farmers do to defend their cause?
Is it both a right as well as a responsibility for citizens to openly
criticize government in America?
Were they successful? Why?
Illinois Copperheads and the American Civil War
Many northerners were not supportive of the Civil War and clashed with
war supporters. In political circles Democrats were more likely to be
less supportive and Republicans more pro-war. This difference of opinion
could cause tension.
Is it your right or responsibility to criticize your government during
Why did many northern Democrats oppose the effort to hold the Union together?
Was keeping the union together or ending slavery in the south the reason
that the majority of men enlisted?
How was the Emancipation Proclamation received by northern Democrats?
Everett Dirksen and the 1964 Civil Rights Act
Senator Dirksen is rightly given credit for helping pass civil rights
legislation in the U.S. Senate.
How did Dirksen help pass civil rights legislation in the Senate?
Why was he considered an effective politician and would his leadership
style succeed in today’s political climate in Washington?
Who opposed the bill and why?
In the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision The U.S. Supreme Court decision
allowed the “separate but equal” doctrine to continue in America.
It allowed schools and other facilities to deny equal access to African
Americans. Was this practiced in your town?
How did television demonstrate the civil rights violations occurring in
the south? What effect did this have in changing attitudes in America?
Did Americans resolve to push their leaders to pass civil rights legislation?
The Illinois Black Codes
Vol. 3:2, 1996
The Black Codes, written into law during Illinois’ first General
Assembly, placed a severe limit on their civil rights and greatly discouraged
the migration of African Americans to Illinois. An even more draconian
law was passed as late as 1853.
What were the codes and how did they limit rights of African Americans?
Who were the Illinois political leaders that supported the Black Codes?
Who opposed the call for a constitutional convention to change the law
in Illinois and allow slavery?
How did John Jones help advocate for African Americans in Illinois?
How did the Black Law of 1853 restrict the rights of African Americans?
When was the law repealed?
Freedom’s Early Ring: Ending Slavery in the Illinois
Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 stated: “There shall
be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory otherwise
than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly
Several states were eventually carved out of the Northwest Territory;
Illinois was one of them. Yet slavery was practiced in the Illinois Territory
up to 1818 when Illinois officially became a state.
How did the territorial leaders justify the owning of slaves in the Northwest
Was this a just and responsible action?
How did the indentured servitude system deny rights to workers? Do you
think it was really voluntary?
When Illinois became a state in 1818 who was the governor and what was
his attitude toward slavery? What laws were passed the restricted the
rights of African Americans?
John Peter Altgeld and The Haymarket Riot Pardons
After intense labor and management disputes a large workers’ rights
rally erupted in violence; killing policemen as well as rioters. Although
no one could identify the person who actually started the riot by detonating
a bomb, eight well known anarchist and labor leaders were arrested for
murder and inciting a riot and convicted. Four were hanged, one committed
suicide, and the other three were given long prison sentences.
Governor Altgeld believed the trial of the Haymarket rioters was flawed
and he decided to risk his political career by righting a wrong and giving
pardons to the three men still in jail. It did indeed cost him reelection
to office and ended his career.
Should workers have the right to assemble in a responsible manner to denounce
their treatment by management?
Should labor be allowed the right to peacefully strike to air their differences
Did Altgeld take the responsible action when he pardoned the labor leaders?
Explain how you came to this conclusion.
How did organized labor help to increase the rights of workers?
How did the political system react to organized labor?
Elijah Lovejoy: Antislavery and Freedom of the Press
Elijah Lovejoy became involved in the abolitionist movement after a religious
conversion. He left the teaching profession and started a newspaper that
advocated against slavery. He was forced to leave Missouri, a slave state,
and move across the river into Alton, Illinois. Although Illinois did
not permit slavery it still had punitive laws restricting the rights of
African Americans. Also many Illinoisans were not in favor of ending slavery
in the South and believed African Americans were inferior to whites. Lovejoy
continued to argue against slavery and faced mob action, resulting in
his printing press being destroyed. He would not be deterred and was killed
during another attempt to destroy his printing press. Lovejoy was one
of the first white person to die fighting for the rights of African Americans
and he became a national hero in the abolitionist movement.
Lovejoy would not be bullied to give up his rights of freedom of the press,
but was continuing his antislavery a responsible decision?
In speaking out against slavery Lovejoy was fighting for the rights of
African Americans as well his individual right of the freedom to express
himself in the press. Did the local officials act in a responsible manner
when they failed to protect Lovejoy?
Hull House and the Immigrants
Hull House was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr with
the intention of helping those in need. A census taken the following year
counted 855, 000 people that were foreign born or children born to foreigners
in Chicago. This was out of a total population of only 1.1 million! Many
of these new arrivals would need the services provided at Hull House.
Addams and her staff taught English, Americanization, and urban survival
skills. At this time government services for the poor were almost nonexistent.
Life was not easy at this time, but it was especially difficult for minorities,
and Hull House was trying to make a difference. The urban lifestyle was
new to many of the immigrants so hygienic practices, proper nutrition,
and infant care were taught.
What were the rights of new arrivals to Illinois?
Should the government have been more responsible and provided more services
to ensure the safety and well-being of the less fortunate workers and
How important is it for not-for-profit organizations like Hull House to
offer help to the needy
Is this true today?
When and why did government start to get more involved in the regulation
What impact did journalism and literature have in changing attitudes regarding
unsanitary food processing and other aspects of public safety?
Paul H. Douglas, Champion of the People
Douglas was elected to the United States Senate from Illinois in 1948.
World War II had ended and reform was on the minds of many voters. Douglas
had actually resigned his teaching position at the University of Chicago
and joined the United States Marines at age 50 to fight in the South Pacific
where he was injured. Senator Douglas began to fight for civil rights
after being elected to the Senate. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King
called him “the greatest of all senators.” Former Illinois
Senator Paul Simon said, “no one other than Martin Luther King is
more responsible than Paul Douglas for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights
Act.” Douglas also was the person most responsible for saving a
small portion of the dunes in Northern Indiana, and passing legislation
to protect consumers borrowing money from banks. He also championed fair
housing rights, which many feel cost him reelection after serving 18 years
in the United States Senate.
What obstacles did Douglas and other civil rights supporters encounter
in their efforts to pass civil rights legislation? Who created the obstacles?
How did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act impact
African Americans in Illinois?
Explain why you believe it is the government’s responsibility to
protect the environment and regulate industry and give historical examples
to support your beliefs.
Should the government protect consumers from businesses that might take
advantage of a person’s lack of knowledge in a complex transaction?
If so, explain your thoughts using historical examples to support your
Why do historians feel that Senator Douglas’s strong support of
the open housing issue hurt his campaign? Did this negatively impact him
in certain areas of Illinois?
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