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Public Statements

Senator Burris and Representative Costello Introduce Resolutions to Issue Commemorative Stamp Honoring the Life of Abolitionist Elijah Parish Lovejoy of Alton, Illinois

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today, in recognition of February being Black History Month, Senator Roland W. Burris and U.S. Representative Jerry Costello announced the introduction of a congressional resolution to issue a commemorative postage stamp honoring the life and work of journalist and newspaper editor Elijah Parish Lovejoy, one of the most outspoken anti-slavery advocates in Illinois' history.

Elijah Lovejoy was the editor of the St. Louis Observer; where he composed editorials which vehemently denounced slavery and supported emancipation. Lovejoy was forced out of St. Louis by opponents of the abolitionist movement and subsequently settled in Alton, Illinois, where he became the editor of the Alton Observer. On three separate occasions, Lovejoy's printing press was destroyed by pro-slavery groups in order to prevent the publishing of his abolitionist viewpoints. On November 7, 1837, Lovejoy was murdered in Alton by a pro-slavery mob while defending his printing press- the machine that became a symbol for the abolitionist movement in Illinois and across the nation. Elijah Lovejoy's death fortified abolitionist sentiment and is acknowledged as one of the critical events that led to the Civil War. The resolution both honors Lovejoy's life as a key figure in the U.S. abolitionist movement, and commemorates the 175th anniversary of his death.

The Senate Resolution is co-sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (IL).

The House Resolution is co-sponsored by Representative John Shimkus (IL-19), Representative Tim Johnson (IL-15), Representative Danny Davis (IL-7), Representative Bill Foster, (IL-14), Representative Dan Lipinski (IL-3), Representative William Lacy Clay (MO-1) and Representative Russ Carnahan (MO-3).

"Elijah Lovejoy was not only a local abolitionist, but a powerful voice and transformative figure for Illinois and for America," said Senator Burris. "Elijah Lovejoy sacrificed his life fighting for the freedom and dignity of slaves all across the nation, and this resolution is an important step toward honoring that legacy and remembering our collective history."

"Elijah Lovejoy's life and death is an important chapter in the rich Civil War-era history of Southwestern and Southern Illinois," said Representative Costello. "He died defending the abolitionist cause, as well as the freedom of the press, during an extremely volatile period in our country. The beginning of Black History Month is a particularly appropriate time to introduce this resolution, as it was acts of courage such as Lovejoy's that ultimately ended slavery in the United States."

"In his biography of Elijah Lovejoy, Paul Simon wrote, 'There is no scarcity of people who are oppressed. There is only a scarcity of men and women with eyes clear enough to see and hearts big enough to act,'" said Senator Durbin. "Elijah Lovejoy was a man of action. He saw the injustice of slavery and refused to remain silent- speaking out repeatedly in support of the abolitionist movement and freedom of the press. This resolution pays tribute to a man who gave his life in defense of our democracy and the rights of all Americans."

The Senate resolution, S. Con. Res. 49, was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on January 26, 2010.

The House resolution, H. Con. Res. 231, was introduced in the House and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on January 26, 2010.


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