Alton School Cases Brings Illinois History to Life

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The next installment of the History on Trial series is bringing to life an Illinois lawsuit dealing with school segregation at the turn of the 20th century.

Led by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman and Justice Anne M. Burke, History on Trial is a program of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission consisting of a statewide group of lawyers and judges to bring greater awareness of historic legal cases and the lessons that can be learned from them.  The Commission, Lewis and Clark Community College, and DePaul University Theatre School are producing a dramatic presentation and a panel discussion to educate the public on the history of school segregation in Illinois.

The presentation follows the legal challenges of Scott Bibb, an African American fireman at the Alton Glass Works Factory, who fought for his children to attend a school close to his home rather than a segregated school more than a mile away.  The case reached the Illinois Supreme Court five different times as the City of Alton repeatedly failed to implement the orders of the Court that validated an 1874 statute requiring that schools not be segregated by race. This case predates the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education by nearly fifty years.

The events will be held at three different venues across the state:
•    April 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm in Alton at the Hatheway Cultural Center on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus
•    April 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
•    May 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm in Chicago at the Feingold Theater at the Spertus Institute

At each venue, the reenactment will be followed by a panel discussion of historians and legal professionals to discuss the evolution of the law and lawsuits concerning the prevention of school segregation in the state.

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education credit will be available for lawyers at each of the venues, through the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.

Last year, History on Trial explored habeas corpus through a dramatic presentation of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith’s cases in Illinois.  Previously, History on Trial explored involuntary commitment based on insanity through a reenactment of the case of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, who was involuntarily committed by her son in 1875; and explored the trial of Mary Surratt who was convicted of conspiring in the Lincoln assassination and who became the first woman executed by the federal government.

Tickets are $10 and are available at
For details on the events, visit

For more information, contact John Lupton, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission. 217-670-0890, ext. 1.

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