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 Illinois History Teacher Articles Relating to
Leadership & Legacy in History


Everett Dirksen and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Illinois History Teacher

 3:1 1996


Dirksen was born in Pekin, Illinois in 1896, and it was there that he learned the lessons of hard work as a young boy. Dirksen’s father died when he was only nine years old, and he and his brothers helped their mother eke out a living on a small plot of land on the outskirts of Pekin. Theirs was a hardscrabble life; they grew vegetables and raised chickens and nothing came easy to them. Everett never forgot the lessons of hard work that he learned as a child, and he carried them with him when he went to Washington for a legislative career that spanned nearly 40 years.

Dirksen was a good student in high school and for a time he attended the University of Minnesota law school, but when the United States entered World War I, he enlisted for military service. He then served in Europe, where his job was to observe enemy activity from a balloon. Following his military service, he was afforded the opportunity to travel around Europe, during which time he developed knowledge of foreign places that would later influence his aims and attitudes during his political career. 

 Dirksen’s first attained political office when he was elected to the Pekin city council. He aimed for higher office, but was rebuffed by the voters in a primary election in 1930. Then, two years later, he won the nomination of the Republican Party and defeated his Democratic challenger in the general election. He arrived in Washington in 1933 in the depths of the depression. The Great Depression was impacting the legislative agenda and Dirksen voted to support several of FDRs New Deal programs to help ease the economic pain then being felt by all Americans. He showed a propensity to reexamine his positions and change his mind on issues. For example, he changed his stance supporting America’s isolation from Europe, and spoke out against Hitler and his policies in 1941. He felt America could not remain isolated, but rather should support the countries trying to stop Hitler’s and Nazi Germany’s horrible crimes against humanity. 

Dirksen’s influence and importance in the party continued to grow. In 1950, he ran for and won election to the U. S. senate, where in the 1960s, he worked with Senate President Lyndon Johnson to pass the controversial Civil Rights Act of 1964. He died from complications following lung surgery in September, 1969.

How did Dirksen leadership role help pass civil rights legislation in the Senate?

Why was he considered an effective politician and would his leadership style succeed today?

Who opposed the controversial civil rights bill and why?

In the 1896 Plessey 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 to a national audience of viewers the civil rights violations occurring in the south? How did this change attitudes in America about how the protesters were being treated in the south? Did Americans resolve to push their leaders to pass civil rights legislation? 

When reflecting on the unjust treatment of blacks in America how it does impact the legacy of the pro civil rights politicians? Conversely, what is the legacy of the politicians that did not support civil rights?

The Illinois Black Codes

Illinois History Teacher

 Vol. 3:2 1996


The Black Codes, written into law during Illinois’ first General Assembly in 1818, placed a severe limit on African Americans’ civil rights and greatly discouraged their migration to Illinois. An even more draconian law was passed as late as 1853.  Chicago businessman John Jones was the wealthiest and best known African American in Illinois and his leadership helped to fight the injustice of the Illinois Black Codes. Who were the men who used their leadership roles to pass the Black Codes?

What were the codes and how did they limit rights of African Americans?

Illinois first governor, Shadrach Bond, and his lieutenant governor, Pierre Menard, were both slave owners. What can be said about their leadership of early Illinois? What are their legacies? 

How did the leadership of the men who successfully opposed the call for a constitutional convention to change the law in Illinois (and thus continue to allow slavery) impact Illinois? 

How was Jones able to use his leadership role in Chicago to 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 Country 1787-1818

Illinois History Teacher 

 5:1 1998


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 convicted.”

Several states were eventually carved out of the Northwest Territory and Illinois was one. Yet slavery was practiced in the Illinois Territory until 1818, when Illinois officially became a state.

Who were the territorial leaders that justified the owning of slaves in the Northwest Territory? What does this say about their leadership? What are their legacies? Why do you believe they took this stance?

Was their inaction just and responsible?

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 that restricted the rights of African Americans? 

John Peter Altgeld and the Haymarket Riot Pardons

Illinois History Teacher

 9:1 2002


After intense labor and management disputes, a large workers’ rights rally erupted in violence; policemen as well as rioters were killed. The identity of the person who actually started the riot by detonating a bomb was never determined, but eight well-known anarchists and labor leaders were arrested and convicted for murder and inciting a riot. Four were hanged, one committed suicide, and three were given long prison sentences. 

Governor Altgeld believed that the trial of the Haymarket rioters was flawed and he decided to right a wrong, as he saw it, and pardon the three men still in jail.  It was politically risky and it did indeed cost him reelection to office and ended his political career. How did it impact his legacy in Illinois history? 

Did Altgeld use his leadership role as governor responsibly when he pardoned the jailed labor leaders? Explain how you came to this conclusion. How did the press react to the pardons? Specifically, how was Governor Altgeld portrayed, and did the popular perception of him and his controversial decision change over time? How is he remembered today?

How did organized labor use leadership to help increase the rights of workers?

How did the political system react to organized labor? What is the legacy of the union leaders who fought for workers?

Elijah Lovejoy: Antislavery and Freedom of the Press

Illinois History Teacher

 14:1 2007


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, as well as the Catholic Church. 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. He found that many Illinoisans did not share his abolitionist views,  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 eventually faced a violent mob that murdered him and destroyed his printing press. Lovejoy was one of the first abolitionists to die in the fight for the rights of African Americans. He became a national hero in the abolitionist movement. 

Did the local officials misuse their leadership role when they failed to protect Lovejoy? How did this impact the legacy of the Alton Community? 

Hull House and the Immigrants

Illinois History Teacher 

 10:1 2003


Hull House was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr for the purpose of helping those in need.  A census of Chicago citizens taken the following year counted 855,000 people who were either foreign-born or children born to foreigners. 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 language, 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, many of whom had been residents of rural areas in their homelands. Hygienic practices, proper nutrition, and infant care were taught to help educate and acclimate the new arrivals to America. 

Why do your think Addams and Starr choose to take the leadership role of helping the urban poor?

Should the government have been more responsible and taken a leadership role to provide more services to ensure the safety and well-being of the less fortunate workers and their families?

How important is it for not-for-profit organizations like Hull House to assume leadership roles and offer help to the needy? How does this impact the legacy of the individuals who sacrificed to help the poor?

Is this true today?

When and why did government show more leadership and start to get more involved in the regulation of industry and the protection of the poor?  Does helping the poor impact a country’s legacy around the world?

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

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 13:1 2006


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. Prior to his election, Douglas had resigned his teaching position at the University of Chicago and joined the United States Marines at age 50 to serve in World War Two. He saw action in the South Pacific where he was injured.  Senator Douglas soon started 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 using their leadership to pass civil rights legislation? Who in congress used their leadership roles to stop equal rights for African Americans?

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 take a leadership role to protect the environment and regulate industry and give historical examples to support your beliefs? What is the legacy of a government that protects the environment and what is the legacy of a country that does not protect the environment? 

Should the government take a leadership role and 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 thesis. 

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? How did this impact his legacy?

Octave Chanute: The Chicago Connection and the Birth of Aviation

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 8:1 2001


Chanute was a French-born, Chicago-based, self- taught engineer.  He was a very successful in the new business of railroad construction. He designed bridges, railroad terminals and invented construction materials for the railroad industry. In 1886, at age 54, he decided to pursue a hobby that was dedicated to taking man into powered flight. His work in the field of aeronautics (as an amateur) led to his collaboration with other like-minded professionals. He collected data and worked on designing gliders. He worked extensively with the Wright brothers and helped them advance their work.

How did Chanute implement his leadership abilities to organize professional engineers that helped to invent the flying machine?

How is he remembered today? What should his legacy be given the incredible importance of aviation in the last 110 years of history?

Eva C. Monroe: Social Welfare Reformer and Advocate for Children

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 10:1 2003


Eva Monroe devoted her life to help needy African American women and orphaned children in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Racial discrimination and an indifferent government had created an atmosphere in which leadership was sorely needed to combat the pressing social problems that beset blacks. Eva Monroe was a fighter for the helpless members of Springfield’s black community. The Progressive Era came to Springfield under the leadership of Eva Monroe and her Lincoln Colored Home.

What characterized her leadership qualities that she was motivated enough to start and maintain the home? What hurdles did she clear to keep the home running?

Monroe reached out to the Springfield community to help needy children, but is her legacy also as a pioneer in the social services field? Did her leadership role help bring awareness and sensitivity to members of the community?

Did the work of these early pioneers in social service lead to a more responsible government to help those in need?

Mary Livermore and Illinois Women’s Suffrage Movement

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 3:1 1996


She was one of the early crusaders in the women’s suffrage movement, who in 1869 organized a large gathering of prominent suffragists in Chicago, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Because of her efforts, Livermore was nominated and elected president of the Illinois Women’s Suffrage Association. 

At age eighteen, she left home when she was unable to tolerate her parent’s religious beliefs. Livermore took a job as a teacher of six children, whose parents were plantation owners and slaveholders. During this impressionable time, she formed very strong abolitionist views, and when her period of employment with them expired, she moved back to the north. Her leadership traits were apparent from a very early age.

During the Civil War she served in a leadership position at the Chicago Sanitary Commission and traveled to military hospitals, where she witnessed the critical shortages of food, medical supplies and appallingly unsanitary conditions. To help solve the problems, Livermore organized fund-raising efforts to get the necessary supplies to Union Military hospitals. Livermore realized the contributions that women could make if they were given the chance, and this galvanized her character into a crusader for women’s rights. She started a newspaper as a forum for her suffragist crusade. The paper was called The Agitator.  In 1870 she moved back to Boston and merged her paper with Woman’s Journal.

How did she use her leadership role to counter the Chicago Tribune’s negative opinions of the suffragist movement? Did she help to spread the suffragist cause to other communities?

How did her effective leadership during the Civil War lead to her changing opinions about the role of women in society?

What was one of the first pieces of legislation in Illinois that provided women new rights as individual citizens? 

How should the legacy of the suffragists be remembered by women today?

The Progressive Era in Illinois “Launching Pad” For “New Women”

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 7:1 2000


So many movements to help improve society and help the needy took root between 1890 and 1920 that historians have termed this time period the Progressive Era. In this article you will be introduced to the stories of many women who seized the opportunity to help make a difference in society during the Progressive Era. During this time in Illinois history more women were going to college and using their higher education to help others. Before the Progressive Era, the traditional roles of working women were limited to teaching and nursing but these new movements were opening doors, and women in Illinois were ready to help. 

How did the women in this article use their leadership to help others in society? 

Are there any pioneering women today who are helping the less fortunate? 

What is the legacy of Progressive Era women today?

Women Making A Difference: Ida Craddock, Adelaide Johnson, Laura Dainty Pelham

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 4:1 1997


These three women implemented their leadership skills to forge paths in unique careers during a time when most women were expected to assume traditional roles of homemakers, mothers and devoted wives.

Ida Craddock provided sex counseling. In 1899 she was arrested for mailing sex-oriented material. Clarence Darrow, a free speech advocate who would later become one of America’s most famous lawyers, posted her bail. Depressed and upset with her legal problems, Craddock tragically ended her own life, but her legacy survives.

Adelaide Johnson was seriously injured in a freak accident when she fell down an open elevator shaft, however, she continued on a career path as a sculptor and a staunch supporter of women’s rights.

Laura Dainty Pelham was an actress who toured the country and divorced two husbands because they wanted her to become a stay-at-home wife. She fought for women’s rights and eventually ended up living at Hull House and working for Jane Addams. She inspired other women to break free from the constraints of traditional roles and to pursue their own career paths. 

Ida Craddock was a pioneer in her field; she helped women by publicly discussing matters of sexuality?

How did Adelaide Johnson use her talents and leadership to promote her cause of women’s rights? 

Do you think it takes a leader to break from conventional traditions?

Edward Coles, Patrician Emancipator 

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 12:1 2005


Edward Coles served as Illinois’ second Governor from 1822-1826. Coles was born in Virginia on a plantation where his aristocratic father owned slaves. Edward had a privileged upbringing with private tutors. He attended William and Mary College but failed to graduate due to an injury. He served President Madison as a private secretary from 1809-1815. He was dispatched by Madison to Russia on a diplomatic mission, thus enabling Coles to travel in Europe. Coles was an opponent of slavery and when he inherited his father’s 23 slaves, he wished to free them; unfortunately, the state of Virginia did not allow freed slaves to reside there. Coles eventually decided to move from Virginia to free the slaves under his control. In 1819, while en route down the Ohio River heading to the newly-admitted state of Illinois, Coles told his slaves that they were free men and women and that they could travel to Illinois with him, or take their leave of him, as they saw fit. In Illinois, Coles presented each former slave 160 acres of land to work. He was prosecuted for emancipating his slaves, as this was a violation of Illinois’ Black Codes; however, he was acquitted because he had freed his slaves before the act was published.

Coles moved to Edwardsville and worked at the land office, where he was in contact with many new arrivals. This allowed him to quickly become a well-known public official. In 1822, in only his third year in Illinois, Coles narrowly won election as Governor. Illinois was admitted to the Union as a free state; however, the issue of slavery was not dead. Some in Illinois wanted to revisit the issue of legal slavery. Coles was a leading opponent of a referendum to call a convention to rewrite the Illinois Constitution, at which one of the proposed issues to be addressed was the question of legal slavery. Thanks to Coles’ commitment and hard work, the referendum failed. He moved to Philadelphia in 1832, where he married and lived a happy life outside of politics. He died in 1868, having lived long enough to see the end of slavery in America. Coles County in eastern Illinois is named for this principled politician. 

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? 

Stephen A. Douglas And, Northern Democratic Origins of the Kansas-Nebraska Act

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 10:1 2003


United State Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois wrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the citizens of territories in the United States to decide whether if a territory, on becoming a new state, would allow or outlaw slavery. The 1820 Missouri Compromise had outlawed slavery in these territories, so the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise antislavery clause. Popular sovereignty would now be the deciding  factor if a new state allowed slavery. Of course, the southern states supported Douglas’s legislation; conversely, it was detested by anti-slavery northerners. This article points out the reasons Douglas decided to push the Kansas-Nebraska Act through the Senate.

Why did Douglas use his leadership role to pass the Kansas –Nebraska Act?

Did the legislation impact his legacy?

James H. Magee: Triumph over Adversity

Illinois History Teacher

 Volume 10:1 2003


African American James H. Magee dedicated his life to helping promote equality for people of his race through his efforts in politics, religion and education. He is not a well-known Illinoisan but his leadership in these areas made a difference in the lives of many people and helped to advance the standing of African Americans in Illinois.

Why did Magee support the Republican Party?

Why were Republicans interested in courting the African American vote in Chicago.

Illinois Became A State: 1818 Compromise, Later Conflict

Illinois History Teacher 

 Volume 2 1995


Learn how the leadership of Nathaniel Pope, Illinois’ delegate to Congress, steered the enabling act through congress making Illinois a state in 1818. He also convinced congress to permit Illinois to expand its northern border 31 miles and acquire 8,000 square miles and 14 counties from what was later to become Wisconsin.  The issue of slavery was one of the reasons for the move, but acquiring the economic benefits of access to Lake Michigan was very important and would be an important factor in Chicago’s rise to a great population center and economic hub.

How did Pope use his leadership skills in congress to enable Illinois to be permitted into the union and also expand the northern border to include 31 miles of Lake Michigan lakefront?

When Wisconsin became a state did they object to the expansion of Illinois?

How did the new state benefit from his leadership?

How did this impact Pope’s legacy?

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