ALTON — A drunk, angry mob murdered Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy on November 7, 1837, at the Godfrey & Gilman warehouse in Alton.

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The mob smashed Lovejoy’s (fourth) printing press and threw it into the Mississippi River. The yoke of that printing press, which was found and pulled from the river in 1915, resides in the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library.

Lovejoy was an abolitionist, fiercely opposed to slavery, and published anti-slavery views in his newspaper, the Alton Observer. He became the first martyr to the Freedom of the Press and is considered by some to be the “first casualty of the Civil War.”

The Mythic Mississippi Project, a collaboration between the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Dr. Helaine Silverman) and the University of Illinois, Springfield (Dr. Devin Hunter) produced a short documentary film earlier this year on the life and legacy of Elijah P. Lovejoy. The film features Genealogy & Local History Library Manager Lacy McDonald and showcases many books and artifacts related to Lovejoy in the Hayner collection. The 24-minute film premieres on November 9, 2021, as part of a two-day series of events related to Lovejoy.

First, the Lovejoy Memorial Committee will hold its annual Lovejoy Day event on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at noon at the Lovejoy Monument in Alton Cemetery. The program will begin with a welcome by Phil Trapani, Lovejoy Memorial Board, the Presentation of the Flags by the Allen Bevenue American Legion Post #354 Honor Guard, Invocation and Benediction by Rev. Bradley Donoho, pastor of Upper Alton Baptist Church, vocal selection by Lorian Warford, Proclamation by Hon. Rev. David Goins, Mayor of Alton, laying of the wreath by Ella Mae Fox, President of the Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial, and Edmond Gray, Trustee of the Lovejoy gravesite. Featured speaker is Hon. Veronica Armouti, Associate Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois. Registration is not necessary, and all are welcome.

Later that day, Tuesday, November 9, 2021, from 6-7:30 pm, several panelists, including Dr. Silverman and Dr. Hunter from Mythic Mississippi, Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau President Cory Jobe, Lovejoy grave trustee Ed Gray, Route 3 Films Creator and Owner Ryan Hanlon, and Hayner’s Lacy McDonald will discuss the Mythic Mississippi project, Elijah Lovejoy, and the filming of the film. The film premiere will follow the panel discussion.

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Please register here: https://illinois.zoom.us/webinar/register/

The film will also be available the next day on The Hayner Public Library District’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HaynerLibrary/

The next day, Wednesday, November 10, 2021, from 6-7:30 pm the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library is co-hosting an event with the Department of Journalism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Author Ken Ellingwood will speak on his new book, First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and the Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slavery.

Please register here: https://illinois.zoom.us/meeting/register/

Author Ken EllingwoodKen is a writer and longtime former correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. During his newspaper career, he wrote stories from more than a dozen countries, including from armed-conflict zones in Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli-Lebanese border. He has covered earthquakes in Iran and Haiti, a papal visit to Cuba, street protests in Lebanon, and a devastating drug war in Mexico. Ken has won numerous journalism awards and is the author of Hard Line: Life and Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border, an account of his years covering immigration. Ken spent early years as a reporter in Waterville, Maine—near the childhood home of Elijah Lovejoy. After nearly 20 years of life overseas, he now resides in Vermont with his wife.

Nancy Gibbs, former Editor in Chief, TIME, and Lombard Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, wrote in her review, “First to Fall is not just a rich and well-told tale; it’s a genetic test for modern journalism, an exploration of foundational American principles— the power of individuals, the fearless defense of a free press, and the deeper values of equality, justice and truth-telling at any cost. Fascinating in its own right, this history is also a bracing parable for our times.”

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