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WIU History Professor Peter Cole
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Public Art Project to Commemorate Chicago Race Riot Partners with Two NBA Teams

March 23, 2021

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MACOMB, IL – A public art project, co-founded by Western Illinois University History Professor Peter Cole to commemorate the deaths caused by the 1919 Chicago Race Riot, has entered into an exciting partnership with two National Basketball Association (NBA) teams to bring programming into Chicago and Tulsa, OK classrooms.

Cole and Franklin Cosey-Gay, executive director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Protection, co-direct the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19). Its goal is to create and install markers at each of the 38 locations where a life was lost in 1919.

The project is also working in collaboration with the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder through their Black History Classroom Exchange program, which reflects on the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. According to a press release from the two teams, the virtual program gives high school students at South Shore International College Prep HS in Chicago and Booker T. Washington HS in Tulsa, OK "a chance to learn about two tragic events in U.S. history often left out of school curriculum."

Cole said his organization consulted on the planning of the exchange program and are leading one of the sessions this week.

"We're thrilled that the Bulls invited us to teach high school students in Chicago and Tulsa about the tragic, yet deeply relevant, history of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919," said Cole. "Last year's killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd reconfirmed that racism and inequality persist in our country, yet few people are aware of the 1919 riot, the worst incident of racial violence in Chicago history. We believe that the origin story of Chicago's persistent, residential segregation lies in 1919, so strive to educate people about our history via presentations, bike tours, and our public art project. We're excited to unveil the first markers created by our artist partners this summer."

The goal of the NBA partnership is to "reflect on the past in an effort to empower the future and encourage students to explore ways to expand economic empowerment within their communities," the two NBA teams said in the release.

CRR19 has gained numerous community partners and endorsements from organizations in an effort to build a community of local artists, educators, citizens and community groups who share the project's vision.

For more information about the CRR19 project, visit, or follow the project at @chicagoraceriot on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more information on the NBA program, visit

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