Brooklyn, Illinois

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For the unincorporated community in Schuyler County, see Brooklyn, Schuyler County, Illinois.
Coordinates: 38°39′24″N 90°9′55″W / 38.65667°N 90.16528°W / 38.65667; -90.16528
Country United States
State Illinois
County St. Clair
Coordinates 38°39′24″N 90°9′55″W / 38.65667°N 90.16528°W / 38.65667; -90.16528
Area 0.83 sq mi (2 km2)
 - land 0.83 sq mi (2 km2)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 749 (2010)
Density 801.9 / sq mi (310 / km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62059
Area code 618
Location in St. Clair County and the state of Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Wikimedia Commons: Brooklyn, Illinois
U.S. Census map

Brooklyn (popularly known as Lovejoy), is a village in St. Clair County, Illinois, United States. Located just 2 miles north of East St. Louis, Illinois and 3 miles northeast of Downtown St. Louis, Missouri, it is the oldest town incorporated by African Americans in the United States. Its motto is "Founded by Chance, Sustained by Courage".[1] The current mayor is Mayor Vera Banks-Glasper. In her early years as an entertainer superstar Tina Turner regularly performed at a local club.


In 1829, led by "Mother" Priscilla Baltimore, a group of eleven families composed of both fugitive and free African Americans fled slavery in St. Louis, Missouri, crossed the Mississippi River, and established a "maroon" community in the American Bottoms. "Mother" Baltimore was said to have bought her own freedom and that of members of her family, and was a Methodist preacher. In 1837, five white abolitionists platted the land and created an unincorporated nearly all-black town. Before the American Civil War and the end of slavery, residents here may have used Quinn Chapel AME Church and Antioch Baptist Church (each a stop on the Underground Railroad) to aid slaves escaping to freedom. Quinn Chapel is located at 2400 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois in its original structure which is now undergoing renovation. Antioch Baptist Church also still stands.[2]

On July 8, 1873, Brooklyn, Illinois was incorporated. In the late 19th century, it became part of the industrialization of the area, and its men commuted to jobs in East St. Louis and nearby areas. "Blacks who migrated to what became known as Brooklyn were attracted to the possibilities of working in an industrialized settlement that would enjoy race autonomy and self-determinism."[3] In 1886, the overwhelming African-American majority worked to register voters and gained political control, but developed its own factions within the community. Capital investment largely bypassed Brooklyn, taking place in East St. Louis and other white-majority towns.[4] The small village soon became all black.

In 1891, then-Mayor Evans dedicated the town's new post office with the name Lovejoy (after the abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy). The later high school was also named after him. Black autonomy did not automatically yield unity in the village. Tensions ran high with class and color conflicts by the early decades of the twentieth century, and evidence of political corruption. In addition, with the growth in number of young, single male workers, attracted to industrial jobs, the demographics changed and family life in the village declined.[4]

The village became unbalanced with the decline of industry from the mid-20th century on; Brooklyn shared in the misfortunes of East St. Louis. It has struggled with loss of jobs, persistent crime, and a limited economy and tax base. A cluster of bars and strip clubs provide a primary source of revenue in its limited economy. In June 2007, it was reported that three-quarters of Brooklyn's revenue of $380,000 comes through sales tax and a $30,000 licensing fee from the adult clubs.[5]

Archeological and historic research[edit]

A state archeological survey was required before construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, which will cause realignment of part of Rte. 3 near the village. In 2002, work revealed extensive prehistoric artifacts, so many that the researchers named the site "Janey B. Goode" after the popular Chuck Berry song, "Johnny B. Goode". The site lies within Brooklyn's incorporated limits but just east of the residential part of town. It lies along the southern margin of the Horseshoe Lake meander just north of the East St. Louis Mound Group. By the end of the 2007 field season, the team had excavated 7,000 prehistoric features, making it one of the largest sites ever excavated in the USA. Most of these features are associated with the Late Woodland Patrick phase and early Terminal Late Woodland Lloyd phase, approximately from 600 AD to 1200 AD. They suggest a more complex and dense community than researchers had known lived in the area.[6]

In association with its work, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) (formerly ITARP), a joint project of the state and the University of Illinois, conducted outreach with the village of Brooklyn, volunteering to survey some of the areas associated with its early history. A team of archaeologists led by Dr. Joseph Galloy found evidence of early Afro-American occupation from 1830 to 1850, as well as material in other areas from 1850 to 1870. This discovery suggests that the remains of Mother Baltimore's Freedom Village survive beneath the surface in Upper Brooklyn.[7] This also means that unwritten evidence of the town's founding may be produced if additional excavations are conducted there in the future, enhancing the town's historical significance and research potential.[7]

Recently, residents have rallied around new work related to documentation of the village's rich historical past. They have worked to collect oral histories and personal accounts of the village. In 2007, residents founded the Historical Society Of Brooklyn, Illinois. The historical society, together with the ISAS's Drs. Joseph Galloy and Thomas Emerson and Miranda Yancey, Dr. Chris Fennell of the University of Illinois, and the Illinois State Museum, is working to preserve the history of Brooklyn.

ISAS also helped the historical society review documents to locate Baltimore's unmarked grave at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, and the historical society installed a gravestone in her honor in September 2010.[8] In addition, ITARP will assist the village in surveying the Brooklyn cemetery to detect gravesites and try to document the history.[7] An archaeological field study began in the summer of 2009 to excavate Mother Priscilla Baltimore's Freedom Village.

The results of this collaborative project are expected to enable the town to apply for recognition as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the historical society and its collaborators are seeking designation for three particularly significant sites: the late prehistoric Janey B. Goode archaeological site, identified as 11S1232; Brooklyn's historic cemetery, identified as 11S1233; and Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church. Built in 1836, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was the first of that newly formed, independent black denomination to be built west of the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the first in Illinois.[9] The AME Church was founded by free blacks in Philadelphia in 1816.


Brooklyn, Illinois, is located at 38°39′24″N 90°09′55″W / 38.656800°N 90.165412°W / 38.656800; -90.165412.[10]

According to the 2010 census, the village has a total area of 0.83 square miles (2.1 km2), all land.[11]


As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 676 people, 267 households, and 166 families residing in the village. The population density was 801.9 people per square mile (310.7/km²). There were 346 housing units at an average density of 410.5 per square mile (159.0/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 0.59% White, 98.67% African American, 0.15% Native American, and 0.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.44% of the population.

There were 267 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 16.9% were married couples living together, 39.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 36.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 25.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the village the population was spread out with 30.3% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 21.9% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 68.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 60.8 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $16,630, and the median income for a family was $30,994. Males had a median income of $24,375 versus $21,108 for females. The per capita income for the village was $7,944. About 28.2% of families and 48.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.5% of those under age 18 and 74.0% of those age 65 or over.


Brooklyn Unit School District 188 operates public schools.

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ Leslie Brown, "Review" of America's First Black Town: Brooklyn, Illinois, 1830-1915, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 2002
  2. ^ "Brooklyn, Illinois Archeology Project", University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, accessed 31 Oct 2010
  3. ^ Vibert White, "Small town, big vision: Review" of Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, America's First Black Town: Brooklyn, Illinois, 1830-1915], Illinois Heritage, 2002, accessed 30 Oct 2010
  4. ^ a b America's First Black Town, Brooklyn, Illinois, 1830-1915 & Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940. (Book Reviews/Comptes Rendus), Urban History Review, 1 Mar 2002, accessed 31 Oct 2010
  5. ^ Angie Leventis, "Adult industry gives thousands back to tiny Brooklyn", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 9, 2007
  6. ^ "Historical Sites: Janey B. Goode Archeological Site", Historical Society of Brooklyn, accessed 31 Oct 2010
  7. ^ a b c Leeanne Lucas, "University of Illinois Probing the Past in America's Oldest Black Incorporated Town", ACES, University of Illinois, 13 Nov 2008, accessed 31 Oct 2010
  8. ^ "Newsletter", Historical Society of Brooklyn Illinois, accessed 31 Oct 2010
  9. ^ Cha-Jua, Sundiata Keita (2000). America's First Black Town: Brooklyn, Illinois, 1830-1915], Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, pp. 35-40
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  11. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

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