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African Americans

Although Illinois was free, it wasn’t until February 1845 that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that slaves could not be held in the state. But that didn’t mean that Black people could come and go, or even live, where they pleased. They were constantly in danger of being accused of being an escaped slave, kidnapped, and sold into slavery.

There was also the constant danger of extralegal violence when they were accused of crimes. On the night of March 29, 1844, the Keystone Store in Nauvoo was robbed of cash and goods. A Black man named Chism was accused. He was taken by friends of the store owners to the woods east of town and whipped in an attempt to get him to confess. When city officials learned of the attack, they had two men involved arrested, and, in a rare instance of justice for a Black man, one was convicted of assault and battery.

In 1845, there were about forty Blacks living in Nauvoo, about a dozen of whom were enslaved when they moved here. Among the Free People of Color were eleven members of the Manning family. When they arrived shortly before Christmas, 1843, the family members took jobs throughout town, siblings Isaac and his sister Jane worked for Joseph and Emma Smith as cook and laundress. Both would become close to the Smith family, with an offer of sealing extended to Jane, and Isaac digging secret graves for the martyred Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Two weeks before he was killed, Hyrum Smith sold Lucinda Manning (Isaac’s wife) half an acre at the north end of town.

Among those who went west was Green Flake, who drove the carriage that brought Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley.

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