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Public Art Project Inspired by WIU Professor Kicks Off July 27

July 15, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – The launch of a public art project that is the inspiration of a Western Illinois University professor Saturday, July 27 will commemorate the 100th anniversary Chicago Race Riot of 1919 and kick off his mission of marking the location where 38 people lost their lives.

WIU History Professor Peter Cole was inspired to start the art project after a recent trip to Germany, where he visited some of that country's memorials to those killed in the Holocaust. He was struck by how little, in contrast, the United States does to acknowledge 350 years of slavery and segregation that explain the ongoing racial inequality in the United States. He believes that Americans could learn a great deal from how Germans are grappling with their history and forcing contemporary Germans to appreciate the ongoing legacy of the Holocaust.

The two-hour kickoff will begin at 10 a.m. in the McCormick Tribune campus Center Auditorium, as 3201 S. State St. in Chicago. Before the formal program, guests can join Go Bronzeville and Slow Roll Chicago on a one-hour bike ride of relevant sites in Bronzeville and neighboring Brideport.

July 27 marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of the riot. The event will include a discussion led by journalist and critic Lee Bey, exploring the past, present and future dynamics of race relations in Chicago. Admission is free, but guests are asked to register at

In 1919, the Chicago Race Riot began after an African-American teenager drowned in Lake Michigan while being stoned by a white man who chose to enforce the city's unofficial racial segregation codes. Thirty-eight people were killed and 537 injured during the five days of rioting.

Cole's project began in February 2018 after he penned an opinion piece for "The Washington Post" offering ways to mark spots of incidents of racial division in the United States. He then was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Illinois Humanities Council to begin developing a project for the Chicago Race Riot.

"I hope to hire an artist so we can bring our own creativity to the project; I hope it will be unique," said Cole. "I want to have artistic markers installed at the locations where those 38 people were killed in Chicago in 1919. We do so to appreciate the immense legacy of racial violence that persists to this day. For instance, Chicago remains perhaps the most racially segregated big city in the country."

Cole is applying for additional grants to advance the project. The project's website is To register for the July 27 event, visit

To follow the progress, visit @chicagoraceriot on Twitter.

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