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Black History/Little Africa

The First census of the United States taken in 1790 showed a total population in the Country of 3,929,214 people.  Of that number 757,208 or 19.3 percent were Black.  Of that number only 59,557 (or 1 ½ % of the total US population) were free blacks; the rest were slaves. Shortly after 1800, John Morris, a free black, traveled to Lawrence County with the Samuel Allison family. The Allisons were Baptists from Logan County Kentucky. John Morris became one of the inhabitants of Fort Allison, located at the present site of Russellville, Illinois. Other free blacks followed including the Families of Morris, Anderson, Tann, Goins, Cole, Portee, Casey, Byrd, Day, Pettiford, Russell, Blackwell, and Jones. Before the Civil War these free blacks owned approximately 2000 acres in Lawrence County. 


Blacks living in Illinois in 1818 were required to report to the Circuit Clerk before June 1, 1819, register their names, show evidence of their freedom, and have the Clerk issue a certificate of Freedom.  Any free black person in Illinois without such a certificate would be considered a slave and a runaway, and could be arrested and arraigned before a Judge. The County Sheriff would then advertise in the newspapers for six weeks for the owner to come forward and if no claim was made, the county could sell the unregistered “free black” as an indentured servant for one year. To see the Registration Certificate for Lawrence County click here.

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