African Americans in Sangamon County History

First Black Settler

William de Fleurville was the first black settler in Sangamon County. A native of the West Indies, he came to Springfield in 1831. Abraham Lincoln directed him here, after having kept him overnight in New Salem. He later became Lincoln's barber.

Slavery in Sangamon County

Illinois was the most pivotal territory in the great Mississippi Valley on the issue of slavery and Springfield was destined to be a microcosm of this agonizing dilemma. Many settlers, having come from southern states with their slaves, vociferously supported the calling of a convention to permit the introduction of slavery into the state. Negroes in Illinois were held in bondage through the indenture system permitted by the constitution, a carryover from the days when the Illinois territory was part of the Indiana territory. Other immigrants from the east were unequivocably against slavery, while still others looked for some sort of compromise. A compromise was worked out which has been described as "a work of art," since, to this day, it is unclear on the issue of slavery. At the Fourth of July celebration in Springfield in 1823, citizens in general were against the calling of a convention and a toast was made to "The Tree of Liberty, planted by the Ordinance of 1787, nourished by Ohio and Indiana - may Illinois never cut it down. ' Some months later, 18 men empaneled from a grand jury proclaimed, "We hope and trust the virtue and good sense of the people of Illinois will save them from the evils with which they are now menaced [the introduction of slavery] and we call upon the friends of freedom throughout the state to array themselves under its banner, and to sustain with all their energies the edifice of our political rights as it now stands."
In the election of August, 1824, 722 votes in Sangamon County were cast against a convention as compared with 153 in favor of one.

[Transcribed from the book "The Sangamon Saga" by Debbie Quinn.]

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