On Saturday, April 26, 2-4 p.m., I’ll be at Revolution Books, located at 1103 N. Ashland Ave., near the Polish Triangle in Chicago. I’ll be giving a talk called “Radicals on Relief” looking at the politics of The Negro in Illinois, as many of those who were on the WPA like Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Richard Durham, and Jack Conroy were members of or close to the Communist Party while working on the project. As I will show, sometimes they engaged in self-censorship, and other times they injected political commentary into their writings. To join the Facebook page for the event go here. There will be a book signing afterwards. Thanks to Revolution Books for hosting this event.
Earlier in April, I was the keynote speaker (pictured above) at a banquet for this year’s symposium of the Illinois State Historical Society held at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. I was quoted in the local newspaper about the legacy of Edward Coles, after whom Coles County, where Charleston is located, was named. Coles is known as the second governor who ensured that Illinois remain a free state.
Those following this blog might also be interested in this event on April 24 welcoming the papers of Gwendolyn Brooks at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at UIUC with Chicago poet Haki Madhubuti, whose Third World Press began publishing Brooks’s poetry in the 1960s, and local poet Janice Harrington.
By Dave Fopay, Journal Gazette & Times Courier, March 28, 2014
CHARLESTON — The Illinois State Historical Society’s annual symposium is supposed to a combination of topics, who presents them and who might be interested in them, according to one of the organization’s officials.
That seemed to fit well with Brian Dolinar, who served as the keynote speaker during the banquet at this year’s symposium. He said he was also interested in what others had to say and to learn more about a local historical event at the same time.
“All these people have this great knowledge of Illinois History,” Dolinar said Friday. “It’s been a real lesson for me.”
This year’s symposium took place at Eastern Illinois University’s Booth Library. The historical society announced a year ago that the event would be in Charleston in conjunction with this weekend’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Charleston Riot.
Several activities are planned for today and Sunday for the commemoration of the March 28, 1864, fight in Charleston between Union soldiers and a group of Copperheads, those who opposed the war.
During more than a dozen sessions Thursday and Friday, presenters covered topics directly related to the Civil War but also many related subjects.
During the symposium, Dolinar, a member of the University of Illinois faculty, spoke about his research on a history of African Americans in Illinois compiled by those in the WPA, one of the New Deal programs of the Great Depression.
He said that covered history from before the Civil War, to Reconstruction and after. He shared some history of the Undergound Railroad’s activities in the state and related that there were slave owners in Illinois, mostly in southern mining regions.
But Dolinar also said he “talked at length” about Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois, for whom Coles County is named. Coles worked against slavery and defended the rights of former slaves, Dolinar noted.
“Edward Coles is largely the reason Illinois remained a free state,” he said.
The symposium is different than other academic conferences that are “kind of closed shops,” Russell Lewis, the historical society’s president, said Friday.
“What’s great about it is it’s open,” he said. “It’s a mix of scholars, history buffs and the general public.”
This year’s event focused on Civil War topics but in a variety of ways because the symposium should address a certain interest but not be too limited, Lewis also said.
“If it’s too narrow, we’re not going to get as many speakers,” he said. “If we can make a connection, it really resonates with people.”
Lewis said another of the historical society’s goals with the symposium is to try to show how events from history can be put in perspective with current problems.
“We don’t live in the past,” he said.