Brooklyn, Illinois

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{area, community, home}
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Brooklyn (popularly known as Lovejoy), is a village in St. Clair County, Illinois, United States. Located just 2 miles north of East St. Louis, Illinois and 3 miles northeast of Downtown St. Louis, Missouri, it is the oldest town incorporated by African Americans in the United States. It has the first African Methodist Episcopal Church, an independent denomination, built west of the Appalachian Mountains and the first in Illinois. Its motto is "Founded by Change, Sustained by Courage".[1] The current mayor is Nathaniel O'Bannon, Jr.



In 1829, led by "Mother" Priscilla Baltimore, a group of eleven families composed of both fugitive and free African Americans fled slavery in St. Louis, Missouri, crossed the Mississippi River, and established a "maroon" community in the American Bottoms. "Mother" Baltimore was said to have bought her own freedom and that of members of her family, and was a Methodist preacher. In 1837, five white abolitionists platted the land and created an unincorporated nearly all-black town. Before the American Civil War and the end of slavery, residents here used Quinn Chapel AME Church and Antioch Baptist Church for the Underground Railroad to aid slaves escaping to freedom.[2]

On July 8, 1873, Brooklyn, Illinois was incorporated. In the late 19th century, it became part of the industrialization of the area, and its men commuted to jobs in East St. Louis and nearby areas. "Blacks who migrated to what became known as Brooklyn were attracted to the possibilities of working in an industrialized settlement that would enjoy race autonomy and self-determinism."[3] In 1886, the overwhelming African-American majority worked to register voters and gained political control, but developed its own factions within the community. Capital investment largely bypassed Brooklyn, taking place in East St. Louis and other white-majority towns.[4] The small village soon became all black.

In 1891, then-Mayor Evans dedicated the town's new post office with the name Lovejoy (after the abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy). The later high school was also named after him. Black autonomy did not automatically yield unity in the village. Tensions ran high with class and color conflicts by the early decades of the twentieth century, and evidence of political corruption. In addition, with the growth in number of young, single male workers, attracted to industrial jobs, the demographics changed and family life in the village declined.[4]

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