In the pre-Civil War and Civil War periods the Illinois black code deprived blacks of suffrage and court rights, and the Illinois Free Schools Act kept most black children out of public schooling.
But, as McCaul documents, they did not sit idly by. They applied the concepts of “bargaining power” (rewarding, punishing, and dialectical) and the American ideal of “community” to participate in winning two major victories during this era.
By the use of dialectical power, exerted mainly via John Jones’ tract, The Black Laws of Illinois, they helped secure the repeal of the state’s black code; by means of punishing power, mainly through boycotts and ‘‘invasions,’’ they exerted pressures that brought a cancellation of the Chicago public school policy of racial segregation.
McCaul makes clear that the blacks’ struggle for school rights is but one of a number of such struggles waged by disadvantaged groups (women, senior citizens, ethnics, and immigrants). He postulates a “stage’’ pattern for the history of the black struggle—a pattern of efforts by federal and state courts to change laws and constitutions, followed by efforts to entice, force, or persuade local authorities to comply with the laws and constitutional articles and with the decrees of the courts.