UGRR in Southern Illinois

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Kidnapping in Illinois Newspaper Heading

The Mystery of Miller Grove

The Miller Grove settlement was established in the early 1800s by a group of former enslaved persons in Pope County, Illinois. African American settlements were not rare at this time in southernmost Illinois; however, it is fascinating that these communities continued to be established so close to the slave states Illinois bordered in the 19th century: Missouri and Kentucky. Tragically, the kidnapping of free African Americans and selling them into slavery was profitable and common in this area. Yet, these communities continued to thrive. For this reason, many scholars have revised their earlier assumptions about the Underground Railroad in southern Illinois and are starting to uncover clues about these African American communities’ involvement in this fight to support enslaved persons seeking freedom.

Click on the modules below to access sources to answer the following essential questions:

1. What are historians’ arguments about the Underground Railroad in southernmost Illinois?

2. How safe was Illinois, a “free state,” for African Americans, freedom seekers, and those who supported them prior to the end of slavery in the United States?

3. Why did so many free African American communities in Illinois settle close to borders with Missouri and Kentucky, states where slavery continued until the end of the Civil War and passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

4. What was daily life like in Miller Grove, a free African American settlement in southernmost Illinois, during the struggle to end slavery in the United States?