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Antislavery Activism on the Frontier: The Story of the English Prairie

A Road Scholar Program by Caroline Kisiel

Historian and educator Caroline Kisiel tells the largely forgotten story of the English Prairie settlement in early Illinois and how it played an important role in keeping Illinois free from slavery. Seeking a locale rich in agriculture possibilities and against human captivity, Morris Birkbeck and George Flower established two towns in southern Illinois, with Flower establishing Albion in 1818. Their thriving community drew scores of English and American settlers, forming one of the most important early statehood settlements. But Birkbeck and Flower came to realize that “for all practical purposes, this part of the Territory was as much a slave-state as any of the states south of the Ohio River” (Flower, 1882). This historical presentation takes a critical look at George Flower’s 1882 account, History of the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois, and his discussions of slavery, free Blacks, attitudes and practices witnessed among Illinois residents, and their community’s efforts towards the antislavery cause – all set against a backdrop of tense differences with regard to slavery that played out on the Illinois frontier. This important historical record also illuminates our understanding of early Illinois mindsets that influenced community formation and supports thinking about community-building efforts today.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Mike Neal at jmnlaw@frontier.com.