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Illinois is a state of the United States and the 21st state admitted to the Union. Illinois is the most populous state in the Midwest and the fifth most populous in the nation. Its balance of the metropolis of Chicago and its suburbs in the northeast, as well as rural areas, small industrial cities, and the coal mines of the south give it a highly diverse economic base. Its central location, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River, made it a transportation hub for 150 years.

About 2,000 Native American hunters and a small number of French villagers inhabited the area at the time of the American Revolution. American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s; they achieved statehood in 1818. Yankees arrived a little later and dominated the north, founding the future city of Chicago in the 1830s. The coming of the railroads in the 1850s made highly profitable the rich prairie farmlands in central Illinois, attracting large numbers of immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. Northern Illinois provided major support for Illinoisans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. By 1900, factories were being rapidly built in the northern cities, along with coal mines in central and southern areas. This industrialization attracted large numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, and also led to the state's material contribution as a major arsenal in both world wars. In addition to immigrants from Europe, large numbers of blacks left the cotton fields of the South to come to Chicago, where they developed a renowned jazz culture.

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Wilco performing at the 2004 Austin City Limits festival.

Wilco is an American rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. The band was formed in 1994 by the remaining members of alternative country group Uncle Tupelo following singer Jay Farrar departure from the band. Wilco's lineup has changed frequently, with only singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt remaining from the original incarnation. The other current members are guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. Wilco has released six studio albums, a live double album, and three collaborations: two with Billy Bragg, and one with The Minus 5.

Wilco garnered media attention for its fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), and the controversy surrounding it. After the recording sessions were complete, Reprise Records rejected the album and dismissed Wilco from the label. As part of a buy-out deal, Reprise gave Wilco the rights to the album for free. After streaming Foxtrot on its website, Wilco sold the album to Nonesuch Records in 2002. Both record labels are subsidiaries of Warner Music Group, leading one critic to say that the album showed "how screwed up the music business [was] in the early twenty-first century." The album was the most successful of Wilco's career, selling over 590,000 copies. Wilco won two Grammy Awards for their fifth studio album, 2004's A Ghost Is Born, including Best Alternative Music Album. (Read more...)

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Barack Obama

Barack Obama is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a Democrat. The U.S. Senate Historical Office lists him as the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history and the only African American currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, Obama grew up in culturally diverse surroundings. He spent most of his childhood in the majority-minority U.S. state of Hawaii and lived for four years in Indonesia. A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer, university lecturer, and civil rights lawyer before entering politics. He served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, launching his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2003. Obama was victorious in the 2008 U.S. presidential election and is currently the president-elect. (Read more...)

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The fifth location of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Built in a Greek Revival style, the building is the first capitol building that Abraham Lincoln worked in. The building also served at the Sangamon County courthouse from 1868 to 1961.
Photo credit: User:Agriculture

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