University News

History of Race Relations in Cairo, IL

March 28, 2002

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MACOMB, IL -- The last great struggle of the American civil rights movement was not fought in Alabama, Mississippi or in the U.S. Supreme Court. It was fought in the tiny southern Illinois town of Cairo. In February 1971, the New York Times stated, “Probably no other American locality in recent years has lived through such persistent, systematic, stubborn racial violence as this tiny city…”

Author and photographer Preston Ewing Jr. will present a fascinating photo history of race relations in Cairo from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 in the Western Illinois University Union Grand Ballroom. The event is open free to the public.

According to Ewing, in the 1820s, black slaves were brought to Cairo to erect the first buildings of this infamous town located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This marked the beginning of a long and tenuous relationship between black and white residents that continues to resonate today.

Ewing is an education consultant with the National Center for the Educational Rights of Children. He has won an ACLU Award, an NAACP Outstanding Service Award, the Illinois Education Association Outstanding Human Relations Award, the Illinois Attorney General’s Service to the Disabled Award, the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation Long and Continuous Service to Low Income Peoples Award and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Service Award.

Ewing's presentation is sponsored by Western's African American studies department, the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Peace Corps Fellows Program in Community Development and the Visiting Lecturer’s Committee.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
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