February 09, 2023

Duckworth, Durbin Re-Introduce Bill to Establish 1908 Springfield Race Riot Site as a National Monument


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today re-introduced legislation to designate the sites of the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield, Illinois, as a national monument. This tragedy where Black Illinoisans were targeted by white residents with violence and destruction of their homes and businesses was the catalyst for the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded 114 years ago this week. The 1908 Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act would establish the site as a national monument to be managed by the U.S. National Park Service. With less than a quarter of our country’s national parks devoted to preserving the histories of people of color and documenting the struggles they endured, designating this site will help guarantee that public lands reflect the diversity and complexity of our country.

“The 1908 Springfield Race Riot site is of extraordinary cultural and historical importance to our state and to this country,” Duckworth said. “By designating this area a national monument, we will help ensure that the painful lessons learned here will not be lost for the generations of Americans to come. Making our national parks better reflect our nation’s people and history is long overdue, and it’s time we properly recognize this site and the lives that were lost here.”

“The 1908 Springfield Race Riot was a violent and hateful tragedy, but as a part of Illinois’ history, it is a story that needs to be told,” said Durbin.  “The NAACP formed out of this event and has gone on to serve as an unwavering voice for Black Americans.  In reintroducing the Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act, we can honor the lives lost during the deadly riots and reaffirm our commitment to fighting prejudice in Illinois and across the country.”

During the 1908 Race Riots, a mob of white residents murdered at least six Black Americans, burned Black homes and businesses and attacked hundreds of residents for no other reason than the color of their skin. In the aftermath of the riot, the NAACP was formed. During an excavation as part of the Springfield High Speed Rail project, foundations and artifacts from homes destroyed during the riot were uncovered. An agreement with community members was reached in 2018 to excavate the remains and designate the uncovered site a memorial.

Duckworth and Durbin have been longtime supporters of turning this site into a national monument, originally introducing this legislation in 2019 and again in 2021. Two years ago, the Senators called on then-President-elect Biden to establish the site as a national monument. Duckworth toured the site in 2019. This legislation is supported by NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum.

A one pager on the 1908 Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act is available here.