|Monument to Stephen A. Douglas, 1928
Even when historical memory fades, monuments and markers may persist in the landscape to claim attention. Stephen Douglas was one of the most powerful political leaders of the 1850s, foremost proponent of a policy intended to avert civil war over slavery. After his death in 1861, his landholdings on the south side became the site of a prison camp named for him. Decades later his friends sponsored a monument designed by Leonard Volk at his tomb near 35th Street. The monument has persisted in an area that became a Jewish neighborhood and later a center of African American life and culture. Douglas was neither an abolitionist nor a proponent of slavery, and in the 21st century his monument is easier to recognize than his legacy. His doctrine of popular sovereignty rested on a faith in the power of mobility; the Illinois Central Railroad that he helped bring to Chicago brought many descendants of freed people to Chicago in the century after his death.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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