Illinois Freedom Project

Screen capture of the Illinois Freedom Project website
Screen capture of the Illinois Freedom Project website.
1. Primary source research allows us to look past historical myths and misconceptions. Audiences may approach a site or subject with certain assumptions about the story. Was Illinois really a free state? What was life like for an enslaved person? The ILF emphasizes the importance of primary sources in separating historical fact from fiction.

2. We connect with and learn from history and let go of an idealized past. What life did President Lincoln lead before coming to the White House? It’s easy to forget the grittier details of history, especially when certain people and events loom so large. The ILF understands, however, that by exposing the more realistic details of history through site visits, primary sources, and other media, participants can see themselves in the past.

3. Digital tools let critical conversations live on. The ILF leads youth through discussions that address the history of slavery. What does it mean to be enslaved? How did Lincoln become a leader? How do you use your voice? The students’ reflections are as honest and thoughtful as the questions asked, and they have been preserved online through YouTube, allowing viewers to similarly think about and contribute to these important questions.

4. Youth have a voice. Historical inquiry and understanding can help them channel it. In a conversation about injustice, ILF organizers recognize: “It was the voice of young people who were willing to spread the message that injustice was not acceptable. And that rallied our country.” The ILF seeks to inspire youth to action by having them study—and ultimately appreciate—the works of their historical peers.

5. Localized histories illuminate national heritage. The ILF is based in the Abraham Lincoln National History Heritage Area in Springfield, IL, but this doesn’t mean that others across the U.S. cannot benefit from its work. With a story that involves people, places, and themes all along the Mississippi and a platform available to users nationwide and abroad, the ILF puts the history of its region in a national discussion.


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Back to the Series: Best Practices for History Lessons and History Discovery Events.
Students sitting in an historic building
Students gather at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site during filming for the Illinois Freedom Project.