African-Americans Played an Important Role in Area's History
Byline: Katherine Hamilton-Smith
African-Americans have been part of Lake County from the earliest days of non-native settlement.
Amos Bennett, an African-American freed man from Connecticut, settled in Warren Township near the intersection of Washington and Milwaukee in 1834, only one year after such settlement was made possible by the Treaty of Chicago's removal of the Potawatomi. Some believe that Bennett may have been the earliest settler in Lake County, a distinction long held by Capt. Daniel Wright.
Not as well-known as Bennett's story, in the long history of African-American activity in Lake County, is that Lake Forest has been a center of African-American life and culture here since the early days. The city was founded by a Chicago church that strongly favored the abolition of slavery, making the new town a link along the Underground Railroad. As the Civil War neared its end in 1865, many African-Americans migrated north and settled in Lake Forest, taking jobs on the great estates. By the time the war was over, there were enough African-Americans living in Lake Forest that the Presbyterian Church had already organized a "Sunday school for colored children."
And in 1866, the African Methodist Episcopal Church was established and its building erected on the southwest corner of Maplewood and Washington Streets in 1870. The AME Church in Lake Forest is thought to be the first African-American church in Lake County. …