December 13, 2019

Duckworth’s Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act Advances out of Senate Committee


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) passed the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource (ENR) Committee yesterday and will now be considered by the full Senate. The Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act would require the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) to conduct a final study to evaluate whether it is suitable to be a monument. A preliminary study published earlier this year found that the site has National significance and meets the basic requirements to be included in the Park system. With less than a quarter of National Parks devoted to recognizing the histories of diverse peoples and cultures, designating the 1908 Race Riot Site a National Monument would guarantee that public lands reflect the diversity of the country.

“The 1908 Race Riot Sites are of extraordinary cultural and historical importance to our state and to this country,” Duckworth said. “I’m glad my colleagues passed this important legislationwhich directs the Secretary of Interior to publish the final study necessary to designate this area a National Monumentout of Committee today. Protecting this area will help ensure that the painful lessons learned here will not be lost for the generations of Americans to come while helping make our nation’s public lands more representative of all the people who helped build our country.” 

“A hate-fueled tragedy that ended in the murder of six African Americans, the 1908 Springfield Race Riots carry heavy historical significance for Illinois. The riots lead to the creation of the NAACP, playing a pivotal role in the civil rights movement,” said Durbin. “By calling on Sec. Bernhardt to conduct a study on establishing a Springfield Race Riot National Monument, we can recognize the lives lost by these hate-filled crimes and renew our commitment to fighting prejudice and promoting equality for years to come.”

“I am glad to see progress in the effort to establish the 1908 Race Riot Site as a national monument, and am hopeful that we will see this become a reality in 2020,” Teresa Haley, NAACP Illinois State President, said. “This is a crucial part of Black History that needs to be preserved and shared with everyone, especially since it led to the establishment of the oldest Civil Rights Organization in the world. I'm proud to serve as the NAACP IL State President, as well as the Springfield Branch President.”

During the Race Riots, a mob of white residents murdered at least six African Americans, burned black homes and businesses and attacked hundreds of residents for no other reason than the color of their skin. The riot was the catalyst for the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During an excavation as part of the Springfield High Speed Rail project, foundations and artifacts from homes destroyed during the Springfield 1908 Race Riot were uncovered. An agreement with community members was reached in 2018 to excavate the remains and designate the uncovered site a memorial.

Duckworth introduced this legislation in February of this year after penning an op-ed calling on President Trump to designate the site a national monument. She also toured the 1908 Race Riot excavation site this July to observe the excavation process of the site.

This bill is the result of bipartisan and bicameral efforts to charge the National Park System with the responsibility of preserving, protecting, and interpreting for the benefit of present and future generations. The bill is also supported by the NAACP, the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) has introduced a companion measure in the U.S. House of Representatives.