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Local Leaders Urge National Monument Designation

At a public meeting hosted Monday by the Department of Interior (DOI) at Union Baptist Church, Springfield community members called on President Biden to commemorate the site of 1908 Springfield Race Riots as a national monument. Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Shannon Estenoz, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, attended the meeting and heard from community leaders as they expressed robust support for President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument in Springfield. 

 

Attendees included representatives from Springfield organizations, elected officials, faith leaders, conservation advocates, and local residents. The Springfield site would be the first national park to tell the history of race riots in the U.S. and would document one of the country’s worst examples of mass racial violence, where a White mob attacked and lynched Black residents of Springfield and burned their homes and businesses within blocks of the former home of Abraham Lincoln.

 

"Making the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot a National Monument will give all Americans a chance to know their history so something so horrible as this will never happen again,” said Ken Page, President of Springfield ACLU. 

 

The Springfield Race Riot of August 1908 was one of the catalysts that, with the help of civil rights leader Ida B. Wells, resulted in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Today’s public meeting represents a crucial step forward in the effort to proclaim the story of the 1908 Springfield Race Riots through a national monument designation and follows a declaration by the National Park Service in their Special resource study that found that the Springfield site met the criteria to be added to the National Park System.

 

"Establishing the 1908 Springfield Race Riot site as a National Monument is essential for representing our nation’s complex history,” said Erin Mast, President and CEO of the Lincoln Presidential Foundation. "The site is a memorial to the lives lost and highlights the event and chapter in our nation’s history that led to the founding of the NAACP. The decision to establish the NAACP on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1909 powerfully underscored the enduring connections between Lincoln's legacy and the ongoing struggle for equality. The site and its story must be preserved for future generations.” 

 

The public meeting today follows an earlier meeting held in August 2022 in Springfield by the National Park Service as part of a Congressionally-directed special resource study. The study, completed in June 2023, received comments from more than 5,400 Black church leaders, conservationists, and religious organizations in support of national monument designation. 

 

"The creation of a Springfield 1908 Race Riot remembrance and National Monument to many here in Springfield is a long overdue dream,” said James Bass, 1st Vice President of the Springfield Branch of the NAACP. "Harriet Tubman wrote ‘every great dream begins with a dreamer’ and to ‘reach for the stars to change the world.’ My hope is that the Springfield community’s dream of remembrance and National Monument will soon become a reality and change the world.”

 

To learn more about the effort to commemorate the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, visit www.springfield1908.org.

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