- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - A western Illinois mayor who has long lobbied for a pardon for 1800s abolitionist Richard Eells is cheering a decision that absolved the doctor of helping runaway slaves, calling his story “inspirational.”

Eells’ clemency was among three issued last week by Gov. Pat Quinn to Illinois abolitionists. The governor called the trio “early warriors for freedom (who) put everything on the line to help their fellow man, and their civil disobedience paved the way for civil rights.”

Slavery was abolished in Illinois in 1824, but harboring or assisting runaway slaves remained illegal under Illinois and federal law. Eells - a conductor on the Underground Railroad, the covert network that led escaped slaves to freedom and safety - was convicted in 1843 of harboring a slave. He was fined $400.

Eells unsuccessfully appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. He died before the matter could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which also upheld his conviction.

Eells helped hundreds of slaves escape, served as president of the Illinois Anti-Slavery Party and ran for governor in Illinois in 1846, the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper reported. His home in Quincy has been declared one of the nation’s most important Underground Railroad sites by the U.S. National Park Service.

“His story is inspirational,” Quincy Mayor Chuck Scholz told the newspaper after learning of the pardon, adding that the clemency “is also a great way to highlight (Quincy’s) history as a city of refuge.”

Last week’s historic pardons also were praised by the Abolition Institute, a nonprofit Chicago-based organization that works to fight modern-day slavery, including in Mauritania.

“Honoring these abolitionists is the right thing to do for their families and is helping to energize a new generation of Illinoisans to honor their legacy by fighting against human trafficking and modern-day slavery,” institute co-founder Sean Tenner said in a statement.

___

Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide