Historian and re-enactor Bob Davis will present a monologue as
Frederick Douglass, starting at 3 p.m. Bob Lenz, a lawyer from
Bloomington and former president of the Abraham Lincoln Association,
will provide historical comments during the free, one-hour program.
Doug King, board president of the Springfield and Central Illinois
African-American History Museum, will provide opening remarks.
“Frederick Douglass played a vital role in American history, and his
speeches at the Old State Capitol represented a breakthrough for
African-Americans in Illinois,” said Heidi Brown-McCreery, director
of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. “We are proud to help
commemorate this important anniversary.”
Until 1865, the state’s repressive “Black Laws” limited the role of
African-Americans in Illinois society and government. Those laws
were repealed the same week Illinois became the first state to
ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
A year later, Douglass, the famous abolitionist, writer and social
reformer, delivered the first known speech by an African-American at
the state Capitol. He spoke on April 4 and 5, first about Lincoln’s
assassination and then on Reconstruction in the rebellious Southern
Although Douglass had been very critical of Abraham Lincoln during
the first two years of his presidency, the two men developed a
positive relationship after the Emancipation Proclamation was
issued. Douglass continued his work with President Lincoln by
advocating for the recruitment of African-American soldiers in the
Union Army and equal pay for those men.
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The event is sponsored by IHPA, the Old State Capitol Foundation, the
Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum, and the
Abraham Lincoln Association. Light refreshments will be provided after the
The Old State Capitol served as the seat of Illinois government from 1839 to
1876. Abraham Lincoln served as a legislator there, launched his 1858 Senate
campaign there with his famous “House Divided” speech, and used it as his
unofficial transition headquarters after being elected president.
The Old State Capitol is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and
closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
[Shanta Thoele, Communications and
Public Affairs, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]