- Illinois State Museum, Springfield
Paul Mickey Learning Series presented by Floyd Mansberger, Fever River Research
On the evening of August 14, 1908, racial tensions in Springfield ignited, in part due to the allegations of a white woman (which were later recanted), that she had been assaulted by a black man. A large, vengeful crowd gathered at the Sangamon County Jail demanding justice. Hearing that the sheriff has secretly sent the prisoner to the safety of a nearby town, the crowd erupted into violence resulting in two days of rioting. During this time two black men were lynched, many downtown businesses and homes were destroyed, and five white men died from injuries sustained during the event. One residential neighborhood in particular—referred to by the contemporary press as the “Badlands”—was the center of much of the mob violence. Soon after this horrific weekend of violence, and incensed by the fact that this event had taken place in the hometown of the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln, a prominent group of social reformers came together in February 1909 and formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In late 2014, Phase II archaeological investigations documented the remains of five houses burned to the ground during the 1908 mob action. These house sites, were threatened with demolition by proposed railroad improvements, and were determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. After four years of consultation with interested parties and negotiations with various state and federal agencies, the right-of-way was modified to preserve a portion of these archaeological deposits in place. Phase III data recovery (archaeological excavation) was undertaken on that portion of the site that remained in the project’s path. This presentation will summarize the field investigations undertaken in the 2019 field season, and highlight some of the significant new finds recovered.
The archaeological investigations were a window into the past, allowed current residents of Springfield to have a direct physical connection to this horrific event, and fostered new dialogue regarding the events that transpired that hot August weekend. But more than being just a nostalgic and highly emotional connection to reverent ground, the excavations have given us significant new insights into the lifeways of the inhabitants that called this neighborhood home at the time of the riot—insights that contrast dramatically to the historical narrative of the contemporary press from 1908.
Each month, the Paul Mickey Learning Series features a different speaker and topic in the Auditorium at the Illinois State Museum. For additional information, please contact email@example.com or (217) 558-6696.