Past Event

Illinois Memoirs: Our Story and Your Opportunity

A Road Scholar Program by John Hallwas

Illinois’s monumental literary heritage is particularly rich in autobiographies and memoirs, including the first noted autobiography from the Midwest (Chief Black Hawk’s), the most famous memoir associated with the Civil War (Ulysses S. Grant’s), and one of the most celebrated autobiographies by an American woman (Jane Addams’s Twenty Years at Hull House), among many others. Such works often address issues of identity and belonging, which are as crucial today as ever.

Because of the rapidity of cultural change, personal accounts that offer perspectives on life in particular places, families, communities, and occupations at various points in the past (even the recent past) are increasingly valuable. The Illinois Bicentennial provides an opportunity for local organizations to foster community by emphasizing local heritage that helps residents to feel meaningfully connected.

In this presentation, Illinois literary and cultural historian John Hallwas will explore selections from fascinating memoirs by Illinoisans. He will then lead the members of the audience in a discussion of contributions that they might make by writing memoirs, editing collections of short memoirs by local residents, or reading and discussing Illinois memoirs as a group. He hopes his presentation will foster local public efforts to read and write about the Illinois experience in its many dimensions in conjunction with the state’s Bicentennial.

The presentation can be customized to suit the interests and goals of the host organization.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Susan McQuaid at