The Illinois Portal

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Illinois (/ˌɪləˈnɔɪ/ (listen) IL-ə-NOY) is a state in the Midwestern United States. Chicago is its largest city, and the state's capital is Springfield; other major metropolitan areas include Metro East (of Greater St. Louis), Peoria and Rockford. Of the fifty U.S. states, Illinois has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area.

With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and immense farmland in the north and center, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a highly diverse economy. Owing to its central location and geography, the state is a major transportation hub: the Port of Chicago enjoys access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway, and to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River via the Illinois Waterway. Additionally, the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash rivers form parts of the state's boundaries. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been among the world's ten busiest airports for decades. Described as a microcosm of the entire United States, Illinois has long been considered a bellwether in social, cultural, and political terms.

What is now Illinois was inhabited for thousands of years by various indigenous cultures, including the advanced civilization centered in the Cahokia region. The French were the first Europeans to arrive, settling near the Mississippi River in the 17th century, in the region they called Illinois Country, part of the sprawling colony of New France. Following U.S. independence in 1783, American settlers began arriving from Kentucky via the Ohio River, and the population grew from south to north. Illinois was part of the United States' oldest territory, the Northwest Territory, and in 1818 it achieved statehood. The Erie Canal brought increased commercial activity in the Great Lakes, and the small settlement of Chicago became one of the fastest growing cities in the world, benefiting from its location as one of the few natural harbors in south-western Lake Michigan. The invention of the self-scouring steel plow by Illinoian John Deere turned the state's rich prairie into some of the world's most productive and valuable farmland, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. In the mid 19th century, the Illinois and Michigan Canal and a sprawling railroad network greatly facilitated trade, commerce, and settlement, making the state a transportation hub for the nation.

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Silver Spring, the park

Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area is an Illinois state park on 1,350 acres (550 ha) in Kendall County, Illinois, United States. The park was established in the late 1960s and is named for the natural spring within its boundaries. The park has two artificial lakes and the Fox River flows through the northern end of the park. Silver Springs hosts a variety of activities including fishing, hunting, boating and hiking. The park has areas of native prairie restoration, a sledding hill and a seven-mile (11 km) equestrian trail. The prairie restoration areas hold many species of plants, including lead plant and purple coneflower.

The spring is located along a trail on the south end of the park. The spring's name is derived from the effect of sunlight on its surface, which makes the pool appear to shimmer like silver. Even through the winter, the bubbling spring never freezes, and plants often poke through snow surrounding the watercress-bordered pool in the coldest months.

Besides its prairie restorations and bodies of water, Silver Springs has areas of deciduous forests and wetlands, both of which are populated with species of mammals, birds and insects. Bird life observed in the park includes: osprey, great horned owl, eastern screech owl and long-eared owl; bald eagle have been sighted further upstream along the Fox. Reptiles and amphibians are present in the park but are more elusive than other types of animal life. (Read more...)

Selected biography

Mourners at Till

Emmett Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Till was from Chicago and visiting relatives in Money, a small town in the Mississippi Delta region. He spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later, Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam went to Till's great-uncle's house and abducted the boy. They took him away and beat and mutilated him before shooting him and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. Three days later, Till's body was discovered and retrieved from the river.

Till's body was returned to Chicago. His mother, who had mostly raised him, insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. Tens of thousands attended his funeral or viewed his casket and images of his mutilated body were published in black-oriented magazines and newspapers, rallying popular black support and white sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of black civil rights in Mississippi, with newspapers around the country critical of the state. In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till's kidnapping and murder. Protected against double jeopardy, Bryant and Milam publicly admitted in an interview with Look magazine that they killed Till. The trial of Bryant and Milam attracted a vast amount of press attention. Till's murder is noted as a pivotal catalyst to the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement. (Read more...)

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