Historical artifacts

Photo of Elijah Lovejoy plateThe Keith Collection is home to several artifacts of historical significance. This light blue print soup plate displays the etchings of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, recalling the protection of free speech and the press.

This artifact of liberty and freedom is referred to as the anti-slavery or abolition plate, one of the few produced to commemorate the life of Elijah Lovejoy, an active advocate for anti-slavery and an abolitionist editor who published an antislavery newspaper in Alton, Ill., in the 1800s. Lovejoy fought for free speech and press on the subject of slavery. As a result of exerting resistance against slavery, he was murdered in 1837 while defending his printing press from an anti-abolition mob. Upon his death, several plates were produced in England and shipped to New York to raise money for the purpose of freeing slaves. In addition to the etchings of the First Amendment, on top of the plate’s border appears, “Lovejoy, the first Martyr to American Liberty, at Alton, Nov. 7, 1837.”     

This plate was donated to the Damon J. Keith Collection of African-American Legal History by the Honorable Avern Cohn. Judge Cohn donated this historical gift to present an opportunity for others to learn of Lovejoy’s commendable efforts in upholding the First Amendment.    

Displayed in the Special Collections Room in the Law Library

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