The Alton School Cases (2015)

In 1897, Scott Bibb, an African American fireman at the Alton Glass Works Factory, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to allow his children to attend a school close to his home rather than a segregated school m ore than a mile away. After five jury trials, two hung juries, and five appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court, Bibb finally obtained his writ of mandamus. The case took eleven years because the City of Alton repeatedly failed to implement the orders of the Supreme Court that validated an 1874 Illinois statute requiring that schools not be segregated by race. In 1908, Bibb won the case, but the officials in Alton narrowly interpreted the decision to apply only to two of his children, now 21 and 18, and to enroll his children in elementary school. Bibb removed his children from elementary school after a few weeks, and elementary schools in Alton remained segregated until the early 1950s.

The events were held at three different venues across the state:

  • April 20, 2015 in Alton at the Hatheway Cultural Center on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus
  • April 21, 2015 in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  • May 4, 2015 in Chicago at the Feinberg Theater at the Spertus Institute

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

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