Making site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot a monument would honor victims and inspire change


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By Walter Katz, Chicago Tribune

Scott Burton was a victim of racialized violence during the Springfield Massacre (Chicago Tribune)

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth have introduced legislation to memorialize the 1908 Springfield Race Riot by making its site a national monument. It’s not a minute too soon. In fact, many outside of Illinois are unfamiliar with this tragic piece of American history — even after a renewed focus on historic racial violence including widespread commemoration of the century mark of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

The terrifying event was incited by the arrest of two Black men after they were accused of crimes against two young white women and the father of one of the women. Before the two could be tried, an angry white mob, enraged by inflammatory press coverage, attempted to lynch them, only to learn the sheriff had secretly transferred them out of the city for their protection. The mob proceeded to burn and terrorize the Black neighborhoods of Springfield, killing residents and destroying businesses.

Over the past few years, Springfield residents, especially the local NAACP, have done a masterful job telling this story, remembering the victims and garnering bipartisan support for the Durbin-Duckworth legislation. Advocates are also urging the president to take executive action under the Antiquities Act.

While I have yet to find anyone who opposes these efforts, I’m sure some skeptics may ask, “Why insist on bringing up the past?”

The full article answers tis question.

Our memorial to lynching victims includes others whose lives were taken by white mobs.

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