Enslaved in the Land of Lincoln: A Social History of Slave Labor in Illinois' Saltworks

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Brandon Nakashima, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
1818, Illinois' statehood, saw Illinois ban slavery in Illinois, however the constitution left the most profitable slave industry in tact until 1826, the saltworks of Gallatin County. Enslaved people of Illinois and leased slaves from Kentucky cut trees, boiled brine and hauled bushels of salt in the "free state" of Illinois for decades. This research asks the question what was life like for enslaved individuals laboring at the saltworks of early Illinois. The social history of Illinois’ enslaved in my paper examines how the enslaved lived their daily lives. Concepts like housing, food and family are vital to understand the social history of Illinois’ enslaved. Manumission documents, court papers, and news paper articles reveal the enslaved's desires, fears and hardships. Historians have extensively studied the political effects slavery had on Illinois or how Illinois constructed an anti-slavery legacy, however what was life like for these slaves as people and not as a means for change and legacy building. This poster attempts to place a story and a name to the forgotten enslaved industrial laborers of Illinois. Life for African-Americans around Illinois' early years included slavery and is needed to understand the big picture of African-Americans in Illinois. [Note: This is part of my larger thesis project still in progress (Untitled)]
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