John Jones, who born free in North Carolina in 1817, became one of the country’s wealthiest African-American men during his time. Little is known about his youth. His mother was a black woman who used the surname of Jones, and his father was a German.
Jones moved from North Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee, and finally making his home in Chicago, which became a station on the Underground Railroad in 1845. Jones along with his wife, Mary, purchased a large, beautiful home, which along with his office, were used as stops on the Underground Railroad through Chicago. Jones not only provided a safe haven for slaves in protest of slavery, but he also fought slavery by using the law.
An apprentice tailor, he taught himself how to read and write and waged a relentless fight against slavery. He led the fight to repeal the Illinois Black Laws, which denied rights to Black people. He knew how to use the laws to his advantage, and eventually led the fight to repeal the Illinois Black Laws by speaking, writing, organizing, and lobbying the state legislature. He was twice voted Cook County Commissioner, the first Black person in the North to win an important elective post.
Because of the many contributions of Jones to end the Black Codes, African-Americans eventually gained the right to vote, testify in court, and serve on juries. John Jones is an important figure in Illinois history.