ILLINOIS CLASSICS: A Bicentennial Reading List
January - Black Hawk,
In celebration of Illinois' 200th Birthday, the "ILLINOIS CLASSICS: A Bicentennial Reading List" was developed in consult with John Hallwas of the Illinois State Historical Society.
The purposes of the ILLINOIS CLASSICS: A Bicentennial Reading List include:
- to provide engaging and thought-provoking reading experiences;
- to prompt renewed appreciation for a variety of outstanding Illinois books;
- to use the Illinois experience for fostering better understanding of the human condition;
- to promote a deeper sense of place for the Illinois residents who participate; and
- to help public libraries develop a distinctive 2018 reading program
We encourage you to read along with us as we examine novels, fictional works, and poetry created by Illinois authors and reflective of the Illinois experience. Each month, we will be posting information about the author and his/her work.
"Harvest Poems" by Carl Sandburg
About the author:
Carl Sandburg, well known for his poetry and biography work about Abraham Lincoln, was born in Galesburg, Illinois on January 6, 1878. He lived an interesting young life - leaving home at age 13 to do odd jobs around Galesburg, traveling as a hobo throughout the Midwest at age 18, and serving briefly in the U.S. Army in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. He attended Lombard College in Galesburg but left in 1902 without graduating.
Sandburg worked as a newspaper writer from 1912 to the late 1920's. During that time, he began to receive fame for his poetry. When Sandburg completed the first part of his biography Abraham Lincoln, he left the newspaper industry to focus on his literary aspirations. In 1951, Sandburg won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry with his work Complete Poems.
"Twenty Years a Hull-House" by Jane Addams
About the author:
Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her social reform work. She was involved in a variety of social causes, including child labor, public health, unemployment relief, and social insurance. She worked closely with reforms such as the first eight-hour law for working women, the first state child-labor law, housing reform, and the first juvenile court. She served as president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
The excerpt below of "Twenty Years at Hull-House" by Jane Addams is taken from the 1964 print by The Macmillan Company.
"I suppose all the children who were born about the time of the Civil War have recollections quite unlike those of the children who are living now. Although I was but four and a half years old when Lincoln died, I distinctly remember the day when I found on our two white gate posts American flags companioned with black. I tumbled down on the harsh gravel walk in my eager rush into the house to inquire what they were "there for." To my amazement I found my father in tears, something that I had never seen before, having assumed, as all children do, that grown-ups never cried. The two flags, my father's tears and his impressive statement that the greatest man in the world had died, constituted my initiation, my baptism, as it were, into the thrilling and solemn interests of a world lying quite outside the two white gate posts." (pg. 23)
"So Big" by Edna Ferber
About the author:
Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1885 and grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin. She took a newspaper job with the Appleton Daily Crescent at age 17 when her father went blind. With her first best-selling novel So Big, she won the 1925 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Ferber's other novels include Show Boat, Cimarron, Saratoga Trunk, Giant, and Ice Palace. In addition to writing novels, Ferber also wrote plays with George S. Kaufman. Some of their best-known plays include The Royal Family, Dinner at Eight, and Stage Door.
The excerpt below of "So Big" by Edna Ferber is taken from the 1924 print by Doubleday, Page & Company.
"Until he was almost ten the name stuck to him. He had literally to fight his way free of it. From So Big (of fond and infantile derivation) it had been condensed into Sobig. And had remained until he was a ten-year-old schoolboy in that incredibly Dutch district southwest of Chicago known first as New Holland and later as High Prairie. At ten, by dints of fists, teeth, copper-toed boots, and temper, he earned the right to be called by his real name, Dirk DeJong. Now and then, of course, the nickname bobbed up and had to be subdued in a brief and bitter skirmish. His mother, with whom the name had originated, was the worst offender. When she lapsed he did not, naturally, use schoolyard tactics on her. But he sulked and glowered portentously and refused to answer, though her tone, when she called him So Big, would have melted the heart of any but that natural savage, a boy of ten." (pg. 1)
"A True Picture of Emigration," by Rebecca Burlend
About the author:
Rebecca Burlend, originally from Yorkshire, England, traveled to Pike County, Illinois in the year 1831 with her husband, John, and five of her seven children (the other two were employed in England and chose to stay). She recorded the experience in a work known today as "A True Picture of Emigration." Published anonymously in England in 1848, the original title "A True Picture of Emigration or Fourteen Years in the Interior of North America Being a Full and Impartial Account of the Various Difficulties and Ultimate Success of an English Family Who Emigrated from Barwick-in-Elmet, near Leeds, in the Year 1831" likely reflects the author's feelings toward the challenging yet rewarding 1831-1845 experience.
Several excerpts below are taken from the 1936 print by Lakeside Press "A True Picture of Emigration," edited by Milo Milton Quaife.
In speaking of her 2 month journey, the author recalls, "On one occasion while thus alone on the deck, near the cook's cabin, I perceived an unusual quantity of smoke issuing from the door and chimney, and on looking down I perceived a person named Jack, who by the by had stolen on board at Liverpool and was working his passage, involved in a cloud of smoke and flame from a pan of pitch, which by accident he had spilled into the fire. I gave the alarm, and all hands were immediately on the spot. The wood was beginning to ignite, and if it had not been attended to with the utmost promptitude our situation would soon have been awful. A mattress, which happened to be near, was instantly put upon the chimney to prevent the draught, and buckets of water were plentifully thrown in at the door, so that in a very short time the fire was extinguished. Poor Jack fared the worst: his right arm was almost roasted, which caused him to be, as an invalid, exempt from duty to the end of the voyage." ( pg. 26)
When the author and her family landed in New Orleans, she discovered the mix of people to be quite different than those she knew back in England. "With regard to the inhabitants, their appearance was exceedingly peculiar, their complexions varying almost as much as their features; from the deep black of the flat-nosed negro to the sickly pale hue of the American shopman. This city is a regular rendezvous for merchants and tradesmen of every kind, from all quarters of the globe." (pg. 33)
"This Illinois settlers live somewhat differently from the English peasantry; the former have only three meals a-day, and not much variety in them: bread, butter, coffee, and bacon, are always brought to the table, but fresh meat is a rarity, and is never obtained as in England by going to a butcher for it. In Illinois the farmers all kill their own cattle, and salt what is not used immediately; sometimes, however, they distribute portions among their neighbours, with the view of receiving as much again when they kill theirs." (pg. 60)
"Life of Black Hawk" by Black Hawk
About the author:
Black Hawk was a Sauk Indian chief, born at the mouth of the Rock River in Illinois. Trying to stop the Westward expansion of white settlers, he led Sauk and Fox Indians against whites in the Black Hawk War of 1832. Black Hawk's surrender marked the end of Indian-held lands in the Illinois region. Today, a statue of Black Hawk by the American sculptor Lorado Taft rises 50 feet beside Rock River near where the legendary Sauk cheif was born.
Recording Black Hawk's story involved at least three people. Black Hawk himself told his story in his native tongue; his words were changed into English by an interpreter, and a third person penned the words into literary form.
Several excerpts below are taken from the 1994 edition of the Life of Black Hawk by Dover Publications, Inc., which is a republication of the work published in 1916 by The Lakeside Press which was itself a republication of the edition first published by Russell, Odiorne, & Metcalf in 1834.
"Why did the Great Spirit ever send the whites to this island, to drive us from our homes, and introduce among us poisonous liquors, disease and death? They should have remained on the island where the Great Spirit first placed them. But I will proceed with my story." (pg. 13)
In speaking of President Andrew Jackson, Black Hawk recalls,
"On our arrival at Washington, we were called to see our Great Father, the president. He looks as if he had seen as many winters as I have, and seems to be a great brave! I had very little talk with him, as he appeared to be busy, although he talked but little, he treated us very well. His wigwam is well furnished with everything good and pretty, and is very strongly built." (pg. 72)