Scott Bibb Center Honors Alton Hero with Historic Marker

Hello, all! Welcome to more Building Futures YouthBuild /AmeriCorps news. In today’s Building Futures

In today’s Building Futures news, we will discuss the man behind Lewis and Clark Community College’s (L&C) newly remodeled satellite site located at 1004 E. 5th Sreet in Alton, Illinois.

The rehabbed building, formerly the old St. Patrick School, was renamed the Scott Bibb Center (SBC) and is located on the corner of 5th and Central. It sits in a place that community members refer to as the Hunterstown area. Unknown to area residents until recently, Hunterstown is a predominantly African-American populated area of Alton.

Scott Bibb Historical Marker Dedication

L&C unveiled and dedicated a historical marker honoring education champion Scott Bibb, who fought against segregated schools in Alton from 1897-1908, on June 19, 2017, in front of the Scott Bibb Center in Alton. Photo by Laura Inlow, L&C Media Services

Scott Bibb displayed significant courage not only for the Alton African-American community but for African-Americans across the nation during his lifetime. Bibb’s fight for the right of his children and their Alton African-American peers to equality and full citizenship sent echoes across the country. In order for his children to exercise equal rights of full citizenship, Bibb challenged Alton officials in the United States courts.

Bibb, an African-American and former slave, migrated from Missouri to Illinois during the American Civil War. As a former slave, Bibb didn’t possess an education, but as a result of his migration to Illinois was, he afforded the opportunity to pursue a formal education. Bibb graduated high school during the short period of desegregation in Alton from 1872-1897.

However, during the summer of 1897, the school board, city council, mayor and the superintendent reinstituted segregation in the Alton public school system defying the Illinois School Laws of 1872 and 1874. Alton officials illegally denied African-American children access to Alton’s Washington school while unlawfully exploiting the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which established “separate but equal” as a precedent at the time.

The Plessy v. Ferguson precedent was utilized by Alton officials to justify their practice of segregation in the Alton public school system. Alton officials reinstituting segregation in the public school system blatantly violated the law by ignoring the State of Illinois Supreme Court powers to create laws. Through our federal government empowered by the

Though our federal government, empowered by the constitution, local cities or municipalities, must abide by any laws set forth by the State of Illinois Supreme Courts, through federalism, the Illinois Supreme Courts have the ability to enact laws that local jurisdictions must follow.

Although through the same function of constitutional law, local jurisdictions do not have the authority to exercise the same over the State of Illinois. Bibb’s decision to challenge Alton officials in an effort to gain Alton area African-Americans the right to access public educational institutions would eventually lead to several trials, which are now known as the Alton Cases.

Bibb graduated high school during the short period of desegregation in Alton from 1872-1897. However, during the summer of 1897, the school board, city council, mayor and the superintendent reinstituted segregation in the Alton public school system defying the Illinois School Laws of 1872 and 1874. Alton officials illegally denied African-American children access to Alton’s Washington school, while unlawfully exploiting the Plessy v. Ferguson decision which established “separate but equal” as a precedent at the time.

William Furry

William Furry, the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield’s executive director, said to the crowd, “Scott Bibb’s story needs to be told and told again to remind us that justice is never easily won.” Photo by Laura Inlow, L&C Media Services

During the Alton Cases, Bibb filed a lawsuit, “The People of the State of Illinois, ex-rel., Scott Bibb vs. The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Alton,” which went to trial seven times in Madison County and was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court five times. In 1908, the Illinois Supreme Court sided in Bibb’s favor, but the City of Alton continued to defy the Supreme Court ruling for another 50 years until 1958.

On Monday, June 19, 2017, L&C hosted a dedication ceremony to commemorate Scott Bibb and honor him with one of the most significant historical markers in the 118-year history of the Illinois State Historical Society, out of Springfield, Illinois.

According to William Furry, the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield’s executive director, “Scott Bibb’s story needs to be told and told again to remind us that justice is never easily won.”

Marker Reveal

A historical marker honoring education champion Scott Bibb, who fought against segregated schools in Alton from 1897-1908, on June 19, 2017, is unveiled in front of the Scott Bibb Center in Alton. Photo by Louise Jett, L&C Media Specialist

Bibb’s fight for desegregated facilities did not go without its fair share of controversy within the Alton Black community, as well. African-Americans at the time were divided on their beliefs of what the best socioeconomic solution would be. Much like the American Civil War, which preceded the Alton Cases, African-American families were divided on the issue of whether their children attending segregated schools would do more harm than good for their communities.

African-American proponents for segregation argued points of African-American employment and the fair treatment of African-American children as reasons to not segregate African-American children into a single school system.

Visitors interact with informative posters during the dedication of a historical marker honoring education champion Scott Bibb, who fought against segregated schools in Alton from 1897-1908, on June 19, 2017. Photo by Laura Inlow, L&C Media Services

As history has taught us, the Alton public school system desegregated eventually (like the rest of the country) and resulted in what we see currently as the Scott Bibb Center. Today, the SBC stands as a place for community members to be empowered. Lewis and Clark is dedicated to raising aspirations and fostering achievement through dynamic, compassionate and responsible learning experiences at the SBC and beyond.

Tour

Visitors learn about classroom experiments in agriculture during the Scott Bibb Historic Marker Dedication. Photo by Laura Inlow, L&C Media Services

Until the next time, signing off……

Pat Mays
YouthBuild Coordinator

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

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