Effort Underway To Get National Recognition For Springfield Race Riot Site

Jan 19, 2019

The site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot could soon become a National Historic Monument.

In 2014, archaeologists uncovered five houses that were burned down during the massacre, in which a white mob also lynched two innocent black men and destroyed black-owned businesses.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was created as a result of the riot, and the City of Springfield are planning an interactive outdoor memorial where the homes once sat.

Legislation to be introduced by Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, could also give the site national recognition.

Teresa Haley, president of the NAACP Illinois chapter, said not enough has been done to acknowledge and learn from the violence.

“It has been a history that people in Springfield and around the country have been ashamed of. They say, ‘Oh, we’re going to bury that...That’s the history that we want to forget,’” Haley said. “But if we don’t know our past, we’re bound to repeat it.”

At a press conference Friday, Haley said a foundation will likely be created to fundraise for the memorial, which is estimated to cost $5 million and be completed by 2025. The city will also kick in some money.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said the site will help complete the public record of race relations in a town known for its ties to Abraham Lincoln and former President Barack Obama.

“We have that whole arc and this is the important piece in the middle,” Langfelder said. “How can we learn from it, especially in today’s world? I mean, we’re reliving history right before us.”

The National Park Service has agreed to survey the site. Its approval is necessary for the national designation.

Rep. Davis’ bill will also be sponsored by Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth.