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History on Trial Event Sheds Light on Alton School Cases

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Article by: Laura Inlow, linlow@lc.edu
Lewis and Clark Community College debuted the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission’s History on Trial series event highlighting the Alton School Cases on Monday, April 20, in the Hatheway Cultural Center.

The well-attended program, portrayed through dramatic readings by students of the DePaul University Theatre School, focused on the little-known story of Scott Bibb, an African-American father of two school-age children and a courageous defender of integrated public schools in Alton. Bibb found himself at the center of seven circuit court trials that resulted in five appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court from 1897-1908, also known as the Alton School Cases. Even though Bibb won all five appeals at the Illinois Supreme Court, Alton schools remained segregated for nearly 50 years afterward.

Following the presentation, a group of panelists spoke about the cases, and elaborated on themes including racial inequality and the local education system. L&C President Dale Chapman announced that the College Board of Trustees has renamed the Community Learning Center in Alton the Scott Bibb Center, and was greeted with cheers from the audience. 

“It was an honor for the college and the members of the Lewis and Clark planning committee to bring this historic event to the Alton community,” said L&C Vice President of Academic Affairs Linda Chapman. “The actors and panelists were moved by the Alton audience’s emotional engagement during the program. In Chicago, the audience responded with the same enthusiastic applause and well wishes when the naming of the Scott Bibb Center was announced. The program reviews were excellent in Alton, Springfield and Chicago, making this a rewarding experience for all involved.”

See photos from the event, as well as historical photos that were part of an exhibit on display on opening night.