African-American history in Illinois has been similar to the rest of the country; challenging and difficult with many roadblocks along the path to equality. What makes it unique here is Illinois' unique position between the North and the South and its relationship between its rural and urban citizens. One cannot estimate how far African-American rights have come in Illinois without looking at the extreme difficulties they have faced.
Nowhere in Illinois has this been more obvious than with the 1908 Springfield Race Riot. African-American homes and businesses were burned and destroyed causing many to leave Central Illinois. The African-Americans who remained there persisted through this difficult time, even 50 years later when racial tensions were high in the South over the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. A reprint of an article from Alabama in the Decatur Newspaper certainly shows how widespread the issue was.
The Springfield Race riot, bus boycott and the story of Marshal Robert Moore present an enduring African American struggle for advancement. Racism and ethnic prejudice are significant problems in our society as they are troubling and potentially catastrophic. In most cases, peaceful protest and violence occurred to break free from racist mentality. Out of the race riot at Springfield had come the organization of the first effective black protest. The N.A.A.C.P focused the national attention on these incidents, points the finger of scorn, and bring the black discontent to the open.
Finally, one can see how far African-American rights have come in Illinois with a great example of Robert Moore. Examining these issues is essential in order to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Eric Bridges, Pleasant Ogedengbe, Michelle Levine