The black experience has a long history of being in tension with the US ideal of property and therefore space. The concept of ownership in particular is complicated and can be implied on many levels. The history of Brooklyn, IL as the first African American incorporated town in the US is no exception.
Brooklyn, widely known as Lovejoy is located in the American Bottom, a flood plain of the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. The American Bottom has a robust economic past that influenced most of the mid-west region. Fertile soil for farming made the American Bottom the primary source for corn, horseradish and other food products pre-Industrial Revolution. While access to major transport by way of the Mississippi and later, the rail system, manufacturing created a major industrial center all around Brooklyn by the early 1900s.
According to oral testimonies, Brooklyn’s was settled by a group of freed and runaway slave families, led by Mother Baltimore (a freed slave) located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, a slave state. Illinois at this time was a free state. Brooklyn would become one of more than sixty other all black settlements during the 19th century, other wise known as freedom villages.
There is limited research on freedom villages in general however there is one seminal book on Brooklyn that documents its beginning to the mid-1920s. The book entitled America's First Black Town was published as recently as 2000. Currently there is an active archaeological dig to uncover more of Brooklyn’s past. Possible links to the Underground Railroad have been discovered and there is a significant effort to register Brooklyn as a National Historic Site.