Springfield’s First African American High School Graduate

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Last year North Point Boulevard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was renamed Morgan Avenue. Readers might not think that noteworthy until they learn that the person honored with a street name was a Springfield native. She was Gertrude Wright Morgan, an African American whose life, and the lives of others in her family, were remarkable evidence that Black lives have mattered throughout history.

Wright was born in Springfield in 1861. She was the first African American to enroll in a high school in Springfield, the first to graduate from high school in Springfield, and it is believed the first to graduate from a high school in Illinois.

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The Polio Quarantine of 1949

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There are stark similarities between the coronavirus pandemic and the 1949 beginnings of the polio pandemic in Springfield.

Then, as now, the length of isolation was set at 14 days; people were urged to stay away from others and practice clean hygiene. There was a call for nurses to help with the increase in hospital patients. Some patients had to be given help with breathing, although through an iron lung rather than a ventilator. The polio virus hit hardest among those who lived in poor conditions and poor sanitation — in Springfield the east side of town was affected most. Events were canceled, and the media began offering more programs. Parents had a hard time keeping their children entertained and engaged. And, people hoped there would be a vaccine soon.

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Civil War Letters

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What did the Civil War soldiers from Illinois write home about? Enlisting? Camp life? Love? Battles? Sickness? Prostitution? All of these and more.

Mark Flotow of Springfield, an independent researcher, is retired as the director of the Illinois Center for Health Statistics and currently serves as an adjunct anthropology research associate at the Illinois State Museum. He began reading soldiers’ letters, housed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, due to his interest in the Civil War.

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A Parable for Impeachment Week

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It looks like a children’s book with its colorful illustrations; it reads like a children’s book with its rhyming couplets. But look closer. It is obvious that Brent Bohlen’s The Parable of the Peacock: A Read-Aloud Picture Book for 2020 Voters is for adults. The blurb on the jacket says it’s “a satirical look at the state of American politics as we approach the critical 2020 presidential election.”

The book is clever, hilarious and gutsy, and offers a too-true look at current political events. It promises, “to serve up ridicule to deserving parties, but it saves a heaping plateful for the Mocker-in-Chief.”

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History of a Hidden Neighborhood

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Springfield author Kenneth C. Mitchell in The Little Village that Could – the Untold Story of Devereux Heights, calls this section of north Springfield “a rare jewel of a community.” His book showcases people and events of Devereux Heights that he says is “about as ordinary a community as there is. Every one of the families who has ever lived there has remarkable stories to tell. And I love to bring them to light.”

The book will no doubt inspire its readers to take a drive to see some of the places Mitchell describes. Devereux Heights comprises 15 streets north of Sangamon Avenue (take Piper Road) and west of Dirksen (take Mayden). The area is named for Henry Devereux, who started a mine in the vicinity in 1904.

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