Galena, Illinois, is well-known for its history as a lead mining center started in the early 1800s, and as the home of Ulysses Grant. African-American residents of Galena worked as miners, ministers, blacksmiths, educators, cooks, and laborers in the river transport industries. Historian H. Scott Wolfe of the Galena Public Library District has worked for years to record and commemorate the rich history of African-American residents, entrepreneurs, and church communities in Galena and a nearby settlement called Equal Rights. In the 1860s, as Galena began to experience an economic down-turn, a number of African-American families moved out to farmsteads in neighboring Rush Township, where they engaged in entrepreneurial activities, such as burning lime in stone kilns to create fertilizer for sale to other farmers in the area, and the work of raising crops and livestock. Equal Rights included a church and schoolhouse serving that cluster of African-American farms and the surrounding area.
An interdisplinary, collaborative research project is being planned that includes the University of Illinois' Department of Anthropology working in coordination with Scott Wolfe of the Galena Public Library District. This project of historical, oral history, and archaeological research will work to expand our knowledge of African-American heritage in Galena and Equal Rights, and the impacts of racialization in that region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. An additional overview is provided in this excerpt of a publication entitled "Examining Structural Racism in the Jim Crow Era of Illinois," in The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Post-Emancipation Life, edited by Jodi Barnes, pp. 173-189, University of South Carolina Press (2011).