Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 18PETITION FOR FREDERICK DOUGLASS'S USE OF CITY HALL
July 12, 1849
In the 1840s and 1850s, the issue of slavery was as explosive in Chicago as it was across the country. While most citizens opposed the institution, many white unskilled laborers feared the competition that an influx of a free black workforce could afford. Although the majority of Chicago citizens opposed slavery, very few believed that blacks deserved equality. Blacks were not allowed to testify against whites in courts and were segregated in many public facilities. Chicago was a depot for the Underground Railroad, and in 1850 there were 323 black residents in the city of 28,269. Most lived in the South Division near small Methodist and Baptist churches which served the "railroad."
Frederick Douglass was the most famous black American of his era. After escaping from slavery in 1838, he was employed by the American Anti-Slavery Society as a lecturer. He and Charles Lenox Remond (spelled "RoMonde" in the document), advocates of black freedom and equality, were two of very few black men to hold high office in William Lloyd Garrison's Society.
Points to Consider
Who were Frederick Douglass and Charles Remond (RoMonde)?
How many blacks as opposed to whites were in Chicago at this time?
How did Chicago citizens feel about slavery in 1849?
How did they feel about black equality?