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From Obscurity to Greatness: Illinois and Lincoln, 1830 to 1861 (De La Oscuridad a la Grandeza: Illinois y Abraham Lincoln, 1830 a 1861)

A Road Scholar Program by Kevin Wood

In 1830, the young state of Illinois, only twelve years old, was the fifth smallest in the nation in terms of population. From a national perspective, it was a relatively unknown and mostly undeveloped land with an uncertain future, not necessarily destined for any measure of greatness. The same could be said about a young man who arrived in Illinois with his family that same year: unknown, undeveloped, with an uncertain future and no reason to believe that he was destined for greatness. The next 31 years would see the transformation of both the state and the man – of both Illinois and…Abraham Lincoln. By 1860, Illinois would grow more than tenfold to become the nation’s fourth largest state, full of energy and promise and a microcosm of the entire nation: a mixture of northerners and southerners, native-born and immigrants, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, urban and rural. These groups clashed at times but, in many cases, learned how to live and work together to further the interests of all.

Abraham Lincoln would grow tremendously, too, to become known throughout the country as the President-elect of a nation in crisis, on the verge of disunion and perhaps even civil war, the leader who would need to try to keep a divided nation (and state) together, yet without abandoning his principles. Abraham Lincoln, portrayed in period costume by Kevin Wood, will tell the story of how both he and Illinois rose from obscurity to greatness between 1830 and 1861. He will address such topics as the Northwest Ordinance, Illinois statehood, his family’s arrival in Illinois, his New Salem years, the Black Hawk War, the settling and taming of the prairie, the relocation of the capital to Springfield, his career as an attorney in central Illinois, the construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the railroads, his marriage to Mary Todd, his diverse Springfield neighbors, immigration, the slavery question, abolitionists, the Dred Scott decision, the &quotHouse Divided&quot speech, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the rise of Chicago, the election of 1860, secession, the Lincoln family’s farewell, and Illinois during Lincoln’s Presidency and the Civil War.

This event is Free and Open to the public.

For more information, please contact Jane Connors-Geddes, jconnors-geddes@apld.info.