Pioneers in the Struggle

Friday 2/23/2001


As part of a $300,000 grant from the State of Illinois, The HistoryMakers produced the educational program entitled Pioneers in the Struggle. Pioneers in the Struggle is a three-part educational package that includes a documentary video, interactive CD-ROM (Flash Microsite coming soon!) and teachers' curriculum guide that chronicles the little known and fascinating history of African American participation in the Illinois General Assembly from 1877-2001.



Documentary Video 

Pioneers in the Struggle traces the history of African Americans in the Illinois General Assembly from the Reconstruction Days of John W.E. Thomas to 2001, when the project was completed. These African American statesmen and stateswomen were responsible for many of the civil rights that today's citizens hold. Pioneers in the Struggle features interviews from former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., Secretary of State Jesse White, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, the late Mayor Harold Washington, President Barack Obama, when he was a State Senator and many others who served in the Illinois General Assembly. The HistoryMakers also interviewed political science scholars Chares Branham, Christopher Reed, David Joens, and Dick Simpson for the project. The Pioneers in the Struggle documentary was produced by Julieanna L. Richardson.


You can view the documentary feature in its entirety above.The HistoryMakers videotaped the following interviews as part of this documentary:   




Ethel Skyles-Alexander Emil Jones, Jr.
Howard Brookins Kimberly Lightford
Earlean Collins Barack Obama
James Clayborne, Jr. Alice Palmer
Rickey Hendon William "Bill" Shaw






Larry Bullock Monica Faith Stewart
Monique Davis Arthur Turner
Mary Flowers Todd Stroger
Calvin Giles Jerry Washington
Constance Howard Paul Williams
Howard Kenner Clarence Williamson
Jesse Madison Jesse White
Charles Morrow III Anthony Young
Sylvester Rhem  

 Buy this package today!






The Pioneers in the Struggle Flash Microsite presents an easy to use interface that is packed full of facts and little known history. Not only is it interactive, it features a biography and photos on each of the 115 legislators, a handy glossary and an easy to use timetable as well as a “how-to” section. The Flash Microsite Includes:

Biography Page
Comprehensive and easy to use biographies that are categorized by last name, by years served, by party, by educational institution and by occ upation. In the biography, one can click on the underlined terms and it will take you to the glossary.


Comprehensive timeline that puts the life of each legislator in historical perspective. It also lists local, national and political events.

Video clips will be available by simply clicking on the desired topic at the right of the biography under the featured legislator's photograph.

Did You Know?
This section in Pioneers in the Struggle explains the operation of the Illinois General Assembly, how to contact your state representative, what it takes to run for public office, the history of the Bronzeville neighborhood and the specifics of redistricting.

How the Legislature Works
This section provides an inside look at the Illinois General Assembly.

In Depth Look at Redistricting

This section documents the ways legislative districts have changed since the mid 1800s. Also, you can locate the African American legislators by district.

Visit The Microsite Now!



Teachers' Curriculum Guide

The Pioneers in the Struggle curriculum was designed for students to see the legislative process in action. Interactive CD-ROM and teachers' curriculum guide helps educators take students through the historic struggle of African Americans to gain citizenship in the State of Illinois, the militant legislators who help up the Century of Progress until civil rights were guaranteed, the struggle for fair employment legislation at the national and state level, and the formation of the Independent Black Legislative Caucus. The curriculum ties in to local, state, and national history. The HistoryMakers held live events and teacher trainings to promote the curriculum for Pioneers in the Struggle.


This package was distributed free of charge to all Illinois Public Schools.


Download the curriculum guide here!


The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for this event. View/Download below: 

Pioneers in the Struggle: The History of African Americans in the Illinois Legislature (Chicago 2001)

Pioneers in the Struggle Kick-Off Event (Chicago 2001)

Pioneers in the Struggle Teacher Training (Chicago 2001)