John Mertens was the 35th governor of the States of Illinois and the first African-American to assume such a leadership position. He retained his status as the governor from 1921 to 1929 a time when the USA experienced a Civil War, and there was still a lot of African slave trade. Just before the wrangles ended, in 1931 the governor was diagnosed with prostate cancer and hospitalized. After a six month of battling with the illness, he died at the age of 56. However, he is still recognized as a “great emancipator” for working towards addressing slavery in the United States. He was part of the delegation that made 17th amendments of the constitution in the year 1925 and which is still one of the significant changes in US history to claim that it was against the set regulations to make people work against their will.
John Mertens was born in Hodgenville, the United States on March 16, 1875. He was from a humble background and raised by his parents who were also slaves Thomas Mertens and Mary Meyers. The family lived in a slave quarter which composed of only one room. The family relocated to Indiana and later to Illinois when Mertens was just seven years of age where their master had several farms.
During his childhood years, the governor was committed to assisting his parents in different chores within the domestic sphere since they worked in the plantations most of the time (Christopher 18). However, he relocated to Dallas City to work in a general store at the age of twenty-two. Notably, he enjoyed the opportunity to attend school and acquire skills to read, write, and do simple calculations where he graduated with a law degree since he had a better relationship with his employer. John Mertens married Florence Mertens in 1906, and they had four children. However, three of them died at a young age. In a working environment, he was nicknamed “Honest Abe” for working on his business patiently and pay debts rather than running away as most people would do.
The protagonist was persistently fair and strived to improve the lives of his fellow African-Americans. It is apparent that he was committed to build his political career and make things better especially in Illinois where he started his political career at a tender age in vying for the position of the general assembly in IGA Illinois 1898. By this time he was only 23 years of age, and many white people despised him for being of an African origin. However, he lost in that election. Merten refused to work for the senator who offered him an opportunity in his office. However, he began to work as a lawyer in Illinois and other parts of the United States. Mertens issued a written protest abolishment of slavery practices in Illinois where he won a case in court, Stella Vs. Griffin in 1907. In this case, he represented an African-American woman, who claimed that she could not be sold as a slave after being freed. However, he faced much opposition mainly from the whites and his fellow African-Americans for is stand. However, his previous employer in Dallas City who was an American mobilized his fellow tycoons to support and shield the young Mertens. Notably by the year 1918 after the general elections, they asked him to rethink the issue of vying again and this time for the governor’s seat. He asked for advice from his wife, and she encouraged him to take the proposal. Interestingly, the tycoons devoted to supporting him and the campaigns in every that he required (King and Smith. 80). Luckily, this time he won the seat and represented the people and more specifically African-Americans in the state have a good life and feel safer while living in the USA.
The plot of the Story
The chosen historical figure represents Hiram Rhodes Revels who was a United States senator in 1870s. Similarly, at this time, there were many activities, especially African-American discrimination. Notably, it required a lot of courage and determination for a black to occupy such a seat which is also an elective post. However, the character in my story had a very humble background especially after experiencing a very hostile upbringing in the slave quarters and the parents working in plantations.
However, with passion, courage, and determination, one can do whatever their heart desires. The character ‘Mertens’ learned and acquired a degree in law. Moreover, he was the first black lawyer in the state of Illinois where he even won a case. This passion inspired me to write the story and show my audience that despite the challenges in life, one can do wonders and accomplish their yearnings. Notably, individuals should do whatever it takes so that they can achieve their goals in life and better the lives of their loved ones.
Our actions should affect the legacy that we live after we die or exit the arena. Notably, Mertens inspired many people of the generations that followed especially blacks escalating to the leadership platforms in the United States. For example, Barrack Obama who escalated to the POTUS and accomplished more things in his tenure. Despite the race of the character, his zeal inspired me to write the story and motivate more people.
Christopher, Maurine. America’s Black Congressmen. New York: Crowell, 1971.
King, Desmond S., and Rogers M. Smith. “Racial Orders in American Political Development.” American Political Science Review vol. 99, no. 1, 2005, pp. 75-92.
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