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Historical Document
Camp's letter to Caldwell

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Although Illinois entered the Union as a free state in 1818, it was not hospitable to blacks, whether slave or free. A law passed in 1813 by the territorial legislature prohibited blacks from living in Illinois and promised repeated public lashings to violators. When Illinois became a state, this anti-black provision became state law, and blacks who attempted to settle there were threatened with bondage. Such laws were unevenly enforced, however, with the southern regions of the state being most stringent.

In the same year that Illinois attained statehood, Abraham Camp, a free Negro who with his "family and a large connection of free people of colour resid[ed] on the Wabash," in Illinois, wrote a letter (dated July 13, 1818) to Elias B. Caldwell, Secretary of the American Colonization Society and justice of the Supreme Court, describing their willingness to immigrate "whenever the way shall be opened."

Despite their "love [for] this country and its liberties," Camp and the others despaired in the belief that "our freedom is partial, and we have no hope that it ever will be otherwise here."

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American Colonization Society

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