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ALTON — An Illinois historical marker will be unveiled this month to honor an African American man who fought for his children’s civil rights in the 1800s.
Tribute will be paid to Scott Bibb on June 19, in a dedication ceremony at Lewis and Clark Community College, in the Scott Bibb Center, located at 1005 East Fifth St., in Alton.
Illinois Supreme Court Justices Anne Burke and Rita Garman will attend, along with John Lupton, executive director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, members of the commission advisory committee, First District Appellate Court Justice Joy Cunningham, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen, and attorney Scott Szala
Bibb became famous for what is now known as the Alton School Cases, where he fought discrimination in Illinois courts beginning in 1897. Even though an 1874 law ended public school segregation, Bibb’s children were still forced to attend a segregated institution.
The 42-year-old glass factory fireman ultimately won five appeals in the state Supreme Court. However, Alton school and city officials refused to abide by the ruling, and Bibb’s children were not allowed to attend the school until 11 years later. It would be the 1950s before schools integrated.
The Lewis and Clark Community College and the Illinois State Historical Society joined forces to subsidize and erect the Bibb marker. The latter organization maintains markers of a historical nature in the state.
The college is the site of a 2015 reenactment of a program titled, History on Trial: Alton School Cases. There were three reenactments in all, which were sponsored by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission. After each performance, panels featuring litigators and historians discussed segregation in Illinois and the legal issues addressing it over time.
Garman said these three programs helped raise awareness of Bibb’s perseverance. She called him one of Alton’s “great heroes."
Through the Illinois Supreme Court, the Historic Preservation Commission has also studied the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Garman said the commission has brought to light the history of Illinois, highlighting the lives of those such as Bibb and Todd Lincoln.