Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist in the 1830s, running a newspaper called the St Louis Observer, in Missouri, a slave state. Slavery advocates attacked and destroyed his presses a number of times, driving him to move across the river to Alton, IL in 1837, where he renamed it the Alton Observer.
Although Illinois was a free state, in November of 1837, his presses were attacked for what would have been the fourth time. He and some supporters were in the warehouse where they were stored, and as the building was stormed, the attackers apparently began firing guns. Lovejoy and his men returned fire, but in the conflict Lovejoy was killed.
His death garnered national attention, and was viewed by abolitionists and others as a tragic martyrdom in the cause of both freedom of speech and the abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying:
"Lovejoy's tragic death for freedom in every sense marked his sad ending as the most important single event that ever happened in the new world."
The monument consists of a 93 foot tall main shaft topped by a 17 foot tall winged statue of victory, which therefore stands over 300 feet above the Mississippi river below, with two side mounted by eagles, as well as two bronze lion chalice statures, and a stone whispering wall bench that wraps all the way around the central spire, allowing you to hear someone whispering completely out of sight on its opposite side.
The four sides of the central spire's pedestal contain quotes by Lovejoy, focusing on each aspect of his life.
Because it is based on the top of the river bluffs, the monument is easily seen from the distance, even when crossing the bridge over the Mississippi, from Missouri into Illinois, a considerable distance away.