Lest We Forget: Presentation On 1908 Springfield Race Riot

Feb 17, 2017

I was born and raised in and near Springfield. However it wasn't until I was a freshman in college over in Ohio that I was taught the NAACP was founded as a result of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot

"The key to me is conversation ... and being truthful with one another about what your feelings are. Because if you don't talk, you can't get anywhere." - Harris

Kathryn Harris says it's common for residents not to know the extent of the city's racist past. "It was a dark blot on Springfield's history that was hardly, if ever, talked about." For years groups like the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and the Springfield and Central Illinois African American Museum have worked to get that history better known, and the remnants of the past memorialized.

"Our nation's history in race relations has not been good since day one, 1908 was no exception," says Harris. She says the topic is important as ever, "The political tone right now is not one of unity."

All this and more, including what exactly sparked the race-related event, will be discussed as part of a public meeting hosted by the Sangamon County Historical Society. The program begins at 5:30 pm Tuesday (Feb 21st) at the Lincoln Library in Springfield. It's free and open to the public.

Harris, retired chief librarian of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and current president of the Abraham Lincoln Association, says she'll present the history, but she also wants to facilitate discussion. "The key to me is conversation, talking, getting to know one another, and being truthful with one another about what your feelings are. Because if you don't talk, you can't get anywhere."