Category Archives: African Americans

Beach desegregation lawsuit, 1916

Black residents of Springfield filed suit after three African-American men were blocked from swimming at the new Bunn Park Beach shortly after it opened in 1916. Courts ultimately rejected the suit on technicalities. See Women’s bathing suit controversy, 1916.

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Women’s bathing suit controversy, 1916

Springfield women’s rights activist Harriett Reid made fun of the Springfield Park Board’s 1916 directive that women’s swimsuits at the new Bunn Park Beach include skirts. The park board had voted 5-1 to impose the restriction, which was sponsored by … Continue reading

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Carver Convalescent Center fire, 1972

Investigators never agreed on the cause of the fire that killed 10 residents of a shabby nursing home on May 6, 1972. The number of deaths make the fire at Carver Convalescent Center, 1527 E. Washington St., the worst single … Continue reading

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The Battle of Virden (1898)

The 1898 “Battle of Virden,” a 10-minute gunfight that killed 13 men and had lasting significance for Illinois coal mining, was fought in Macoupin County, just south of the Sangamon County line. However, the Virden confrontation also led to turmoil … Continue reading

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‘Cocaine Alley’ (1899-1903)

Note: This entry is based on research done by Floyd Mansberger and Christopher Stratton of Fever River Research for the city of Springfield and Federal Railroad Administration in connection with the Springfield Rail Improvements Project. Their full 358-page report, published … Continue reading

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A. Morris Williams (lawyer, developer)

A. Morris Williams was a prominent African-American attorney and real estate developer in Springfield from the 1900s to the 1930s. See Dudley Hotel.

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Dudley Hotel

The Negro Motorist Green Book, a nationwide guide for the African-American traveler, for 20 years listed only one hotel in Springfield as open to blacks: the Dudley Hotel, 130 S. 11th St. The Dudley and its predecessors at the same … Continue reading

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Jack Johnson (boxing champion)

“Battle royals” in Springfield were a springboard to fame for boxer Jack Johnson, who went on to become the first African-American heavyweight champion. Johnson (1878-1946) was tutored in Springfield by Johnny Connors (1867-1966), a  boxer himself as well as a … Continue reading

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Richard Pryor (comedian)

Comedian Richard Pryor (1940-2005) famously grew up in a house of prostitution operated by his father’s mother in Peoria, but he briefly lived in Springfield with his mother and maternal grandparents. Pryor’s mother, Gertrude Thomas Pryor (later Emanuel), also was … Continue reading

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Black Civil War veterans buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery

At least 28 African-American Civil War veterans are buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, according to Kathleen Heyworth’s Private Lewis Martin and African-American Civil War Soldiers in Springfield, Illinois (2015). The following list, taken from Heyworth’s research, lists each … Continue reading

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