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Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, established in 1908, is the scholarly publication of the Illinois State Historical Society. The peer-reviewed Journal welcomes articles, essays, and documents about history, literature, art technology, law, and other subjects related to Illinois and the Midwest.

The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society is published quarterly and is available to everyone for purchase, discounts are included for members of the Illinois State Historical Society. Visit our Membership section for membership options and information.

To purchase individual issues please contact our office.

African Americans

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Fall 2019, Vol. 112, No. 3

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Our Fall 2019 issue brings together culture and commerce, in three distinctive contexts. In “Florenz Ziegfield and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Chicago,” Susan E. Hirsch explores the rise of high culture–classical music, opera, theater, the fine arts–and its corresponding ethic of cosmopolitanism through the work of the German immigrant, Florenz Ziegfield. The talented classical pianist was one of Chicago’s busiest cultural entrepreneurs during the Gilded Age. Moreover, the city’s well-to-do took genuine pride in the cosmopolitanism that defined Ziegfield’s approach to music and culture. Ziegfield’s outlook, embracing diverse European artistic forms and traditions, fell short of the multiracial pluralism that can be said to define cosmopolitanism today. Nevertheless, Ziegfield’s story is one that blends commercial success with the emerging ethic of ethnic tolerance and cultural diversity that elite Chicagoans came to associate with their city. His legacy includes the Chicago Musical College, the first accredited conservatory in the West, and now part of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and of course, his son, Flo Ziegfield, the famous creator of the Ziegfield Follies. Indeed, the father-son duo show how entrepreneurs of both high culture and popular culture–or what today is known as show business–used commercial mechanisms to cultivate appreciation for the arts, be they lowbrow or highbrow, and in so doing make profound changes to America’s cultural landscape. Even in the face of reaction–such as the campaign for 100% Americanism during World War I and after–and despite ongoing ethnic and racial tensions, Chicago’s cosmopolitan institutions and traditions, forged by men like Ziegfield, remained a permanent fixture in the life and culture of the city.

The commercial opportunities presented by the variety of forms of popular entertainment in Chicago attracted figures less noble than the Ziegfields. In “When Chicago Went to the Dogs: Al Capone and Greyhound Racing in the Windy City, 1927-1933,” Steven A. Riess traces the fascinating history of Chicagoland dog racing and its deep connections to the city’s crime syndicates. Everyone knows Al Capone and other Chicago gangsters made a fortune in the Prohibition era through illegal bootlegging. Gangland Chicago’s connections to popular spectator sports of the era, such as boxing and horseracing, are also well documented. Far less known is Capone’s involvement in greyhound racing. Attracted to the large sums of money generated by this working-class betting sport, Capone and others in Chicago’s underworld immediately saw the financial benefit of operating greyhound race tracks. They could launder ill-gotten money through this semi-legal enterprise; they could reap betting windfalls through “the fix;” and they could enjoy the prestige and popularity associated with delivering entertainment to the city’s working class, essential to their influence over Chicagoland politicians and law enforcement officials. In the end, as Riess tells it, the race track operators lost their own bet–they failed to get approval for on-track gambling, and their political connections were of little help in keeping their tracks open permanently. The biggest loser, Riess says, was none other than Al Capone, whose indictment and conviction for tax evasion was based in part on the money he made in greyhound racing.

Our final article traces the trajectory of racial attitudes and policies in an affluent Chicago suburb. In “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race,” Brian J. Miller and David B. Malone summarize the evolution of Wh

Volume 112 Number 2 Summer 2019

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Our summer issue presents three essays on topics that have not received much scholarly attention. In "The African American Community in Brushy Fork, Illinois, 1818-1861," co-authors Charles Foy and Michael Bradley examine the origins and history of a small and isolated free black settlement in northern Coles County. There is a paucity of scholarship on rural free black communities before the Civil War. Digging deep into census data and the relatively sparse documentary record on Brushy Fork in the antebellum era, Foy and Bradley reconstruct life in this remote prairie settlement. Due to Illinois's discriminatory black codes, and the ever-present danger of being pursued, caught, and taken South into slavery, the people of this community lived precarious lives. However, family and kinship networks, along with Brushy Fork's remoteness, enabled its people to create and maintain a fragile autonomy, at least partially free from white control, on the east central Illinois prairie. 

Just as scholarship on antebellum African Americans is heavily biased toward urban areas, so too the study of institutions designed to address poverty in the nineteenth century. In "Life on the Morgan County, Illinois Poor Farm: Christian Benevolence in Early Social Services," Joe Squillace focuses on the history and treatment of the poor in a rural, west central Illinois setting. To be sure, normative ideas of Christian benevolence undergirded the efforts to build institutions that could serve the poor in Morgan County. Jacksonville, the county seat and location for the county poorhouse, was also home to several state institutions that served what many at the time considered the deserving poor. Sometimes this outlook led to efforts to control the lives and movements of the marginalized, so-called undeserving population, as some scholars of nineteenth century poor releif have argued. Squillace's fascinating research uncovers the many ways in which the poorhouse served as a safety net of last resort , where the poor and afflicted, of whatever background or circumstance, turned to for help and from which they received relatively enlightened care by standards of that day. For this reason, Squillace suggests, the Morgan County poorhouse "was a predecessor institution to later developments in institutional care" and later social welfare. 

Finally, in "Annabel Carey-Prescott: African American Educator and Chicago Leader," John S. Burger traces the history of this neglected pioneer in human relations education. Born to an affluent black family, Carey-Prescott excelled in a career that spanned four decades, as both a teacher and administrator in Chicago public schools. Burger documents how her idea to introduce human relations concepts into the classroom was first inspired by her travels to Europe, then later sharpened as she pursued Ph.D. work in education back in America. Of course, Carey-Prescott's innovative curriculum didn't solve Chicago's racial problems. But such a conclusion underestimates the value of Carey-Prescott's work and contribution to Chicago's black community, including its poorest members, from the 1920s to the 1950s.    

Volume 110 - Number 3-4 - Fall/Winter 2017

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VOLUME 110 NOS 3-4 OF THE JOURNAL features a collection of seven essays in honor of the Illinois statehood bicentennial in 2018 written by both emerging and seasoned scholars.  Christopher Schnell looks at very early Illinois legal history and the conflict of opinions on the nature of property law between lawyers and squatters in "Lawyers, Squatters, and the Transformation of the Public Domain in Early-Statehood Illinois."  In ""You have been the soldiers friend or we dare not appeal to you": The Papers of Illinois Governor Richard Yates as a Window on Civil War Medicine," Glena Schroeder-Lein examines the medical concerns of Illinois soldiers and their loved ones as representative of civil war care generally.  In "Fields of Battle:  The Problem of Base Ball Playing Space in Post-Civil War Illinois," Robert Sampson studies comparative urban dynamics in the 1860's as the leaders of Springfield and Bloomington determined, in contrasting ways, where the sport could be played in their cities.  David Joens's study of Illinois' colored conventions in the 1880's titled "Illinois Colored Conventions of 1880s," determines them to have been more successful than previous African American conventions in the state.  Moving into the twentieth century, Denise Johnson in, "Central Illinois Women Who Served in the Military During World War II," uses interviews with eight central Illinois women to recount not only their experiences in the World War II military experiences, but also the life-long importance to them of work.  Mark DePue traces the development of sentiment for the 1980s constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the Illinois legislature through the abolition of cumulative voting in, "The Cutback Amendment of 1980: Unintended Consequences of Pat Quinn's Reforming Zeal".  Lastly, Robert Hartley in, "Alan Dixon and Paul Simon:  Like Brothers, They Did Not Always Agree or Win," examines the friendship of two very different Illinois politicians. 

Volume 110 - Number 2 - Summer 2017

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VOLUME 110 NO. 2 OF THE JOURNAL opens with three studies that about events that dramatically shaped the state’s nearly two hundred year history. In Pocahontas, Uleleh, and Hononegah: The Archetype of the American Indian Princess, Dan Blumlo explores the trope of the Indian Princess– who intervenes at a crucial moment to save a white man from certain death at the hands of savage Indians– evolved and became central to nineteenth and twentieth century conceptions of American nationalism. In Jim Crow Comes to Central Illinois: Racial Segregation in the twentieth Century Bloomington-Normal, Mark Wyman and John W. Muirhead review the persistence of racial segregation in Illinois and the struggles of blacks and sympathetic whites to combat it. In our final article, The Decline of Decatur, longtime Illinois historian Roger Biles presents a timely account of what we today call globalization, and why its history matters so much to residents of countless Rustbelt cities like Decatur.

Volume 110 - Number 1 - Spring 2017

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VOLUME 110 OF THE JOURNAL opens with three studies of post–
World War II Illinois history. In “‘Names and Appearances are often Inde-
terminate:’ Quandaries over Identifying Jews in Chicago, 1953–1961,” Kelly
King-O’Brien examines the conversations between Chicago-based Jewish
agencies, President Eisenhower’s Committee on Government Contracts
(PCGC), and private employers accused of discriminatory practices. 
Ann Durkin Keating treats another facet of civic life that shaped the
postwar liberal order in “‘Behind the Suburban Curtain:’ The Campaign
for Open Occupancy in Naperville.” In our final article, “‘ The Dwindling
Legacy that is Food for Mice and Flames:’ Discovery and Preservation
of Illinois Historic Newspapers through the Illinois Digital Newspaper
Project, 2009–2015,” Marek Sroka and Tracy Nectoux trace the history
of newspaper preservation in Illinois up through our current digital age.  


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