Mobile menu icon Close mobile navigation icon

Pioneers in the Struggle


February 24, 2001

As part of a $300,000 grant from the State of Illinois, The HistoryMakers produced the educational program, Pioneers in the Struggle. Pioneers in the Struggle includes a documentary video, interactive CD-ROM, and teachers curriculum guide that chronicles the little known and fascinating history of African American participation in the Illinois General Assembly from 1877-2001.


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. These African American statesmen and stateswomen were responsible for many of the civil rights that today's citizens hold.Pioneers in the Strugglefeatures interviews from former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., Secretary of State Jesse White, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, the late Mayor Harold Washington, President Barack Obama, and many others who served in the Illinois General Assembly.The HistoryMakersalso interviewed political science scholars Charles Branham, Christopher Reed, David Joens, and Dick Simpson for the project.


Flash Microsite

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 occupation. 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.

View The Microsite Here

Teachers Curriculum Guide

The Pioneers in the Struggle curriculum was designed for students to see the legislative process in action. The 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 held 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 into local, state, and national history.

Download the Curriculum Guide Here

The HistoryMakers staff created finding aids for this collection. View/download below.

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

Pioneers in the Struggle Kickoff Event (Chicago 2001)

Pioneers in the Struggle Teacher Training (Chicago 2001)


State Representatives

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

State Senators

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