The Museum is open, please check "Plan Your Visit" page for latest covid info and latest hours

Skip to Content
200 North Main St | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Did Black Lives Matter in Early Illinois? Voices from the Brink of Slavery and Freedom.

Tuesday, June 22
Starts at 6:30 PM

McLean County Museum of History
200 N. Main St, Bloomington IL 61701

Did Black Lives Matter in Early Illinois? Voices from the Brink of Slavery and Freedom.

The Museum is pleased to host Dr. Caroline Kisiel, Associate Professor at DePaul University in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, who will offer a performance-presentation exploring slavery’s roots in Illinois and the people who fought the forces to keep Illinois a free state. This free, virtual presentation, sponsored by Illinois Humanities, will be held on Tuesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m.

In 1818, Illinois entered the United States with a Constitution declaring itself a free state. But slavery’s roots went back centuries in the region, and its hold on the young state was strong. In the first years of statehood, the Illinois legislature had a number of pro-slavery advocates who made a bold attempt to change the Constitution to allow slavery. They had already succeeded in building in limited slavery clauses into the 1818 Constitution which were to sunset in 1825, and they now wished to expand this foothold. Other voices vehemently fought against them, ultimately prevailing to preserve the free state.

Who were these voices advocating for a permanent constitutional change to allow slavery? And who stood up against them, preserving the free state of Illinois we know? And ultimately, in what ways did these opposing voices support Black lives, or not? This performance-presentation offers a dramatic reading/adaptation of the voices of three key proslavery figures (Territorial Governor, Ninian Edwards; secretary of the Illinois Territory, Joseph P. Phillips; and proslavery delegate, Adolphus Frederick Hubbard) and three antislavery figures (Governor Edward Coles; anti-convention legislator, Nicholas Hansen; English emigrant and Illinois Secretary of State, Morris Birkbeck) from this period.

Dr. 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, she 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. Her presentations showcase researched information, historical documents, dramatic readings, and facilitated audience engagement activities around critical questions of the value of history and activism through themes of early Illinois struggles to keep slavery at bay in the state and key early Illinois figures in this period.

To register for this free, zoom webinar, go to Questions or for more information, please contact the Education Department at

Illinois Humanities is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council Agency (IACA)], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by speakers, program participants, or audiences do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH, Illinois Humanities, IACA, our partnering organizations, or our funders.