Sen Duckworth: Race Riot site should be declared a national monument
Source: The State Journal Register
Illinois is poised to celebrate its bicentennial next month. But as we mark this important milestone in our state’s history, we must also memorialize the 110th anniversary of the deadly 1908 Race Riots.
During the Race Riots, a mob of white residents murdered at least six African-Americans, burned black homes and businesses and attacked hundreds of citizens.
Vitriol and hate reigned, as person after person was killed for no reason other than the color of their skin. For having the nerve to be black. For having the gall to look differently than those doing the lynching.
Among those killed was William Donegan — an 84-year-old cobbler who was hung from a tree, then stabbed, because he had dared marry a white woman three decades prior.
In the aftermath, shocked citizens across the country formed a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting equality and eradicating prejudice, known today as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
And so out of intolerance a movement was borne — asking us to do better and fight harder for a more just, more equal society.
Now it falls on us to keep that movement alive.
If we truly want to learn from the lessons of the past to fight prejudice today and tomorrow, we must recognize this history and preserve it for future generations. That’s why I call upon President Trump to use his extraordinary power under the Antiquities Act to designate this site as a national monument and give it our nation’s highest level of protections.
Right now, less than a quarter of our national parks recognize the histories of diverse peoples and cultures. It’s well past time that changes.
Our national parks are the inheritance of every American — but they can only fulfill that mission when everyone has access to them, regardless of race, gender or special needs.
Accessibility in this case doesn’t just mean building ramps to make sure differently-abled folks can see the same sites as everyone else, though that is of course critical.
Here, it also means recognizing the long-held prejudices that far too often have led our public lands to memorialize only a small slice of American history.
It means making sure that our parks are representative of everyone in society, not just those whose gender or skin color is the same as those men on Mount Rushmore.
Because every American should feel seen on our country’s land and in its lore.
Designating the 1908 Race Riot Site as a national monument would bring us another step closer to that reality, helping our public spaces better reflect the diversity that has made this country great for 242 years and counting.
Because fighting for America means fighting to protect all of America — and every American’s history.
In August 1908, our nation lost its way. But after the darkness and the horror, a small group of determined citizens helped it find it once more.
I’m asking every one of my colleagues who’s committed to keeping us on that path toward a better, fairer America to work with me to make our public lands as inclusive as this country is at its best.
By: Tammy Duckworth
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