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1908 Springfield IL Race Riot

Last month I took a weekend trip to Springfield IL to retrace and learn about the sites of the two-day 1908 Race Riot that killed an estimated 11 people.


(Springfield Race Riot Sculpture - Artist Preston Jackson)


On August 13, 1908, Mabel Hallam, a white woman, and wife of a streetcar conductor, accused George Richardson, a black man, of rape in their home. This incident heightened the White mob's anger due to Joe James, a black man, who was accused of killing a white railroad engineer, Clergy Ballard, in July 1908.


(George Richardson - Photo: Sangamon Link)


(Joe James - Photo: Sangamon Link)


While Richardson and James were sitting in jail, a white mob demanded the two black men's release to have them lynched. The mob did not know that Richardson and James were secretly released and transported to Bloomington, IL, in a car owned by a white downtown restaurant owner, Harry Loper, hoping that the mob would leave and go home.


When the mob found out they were deceived, anger ensued. An estimated 5,000 rioters destroyed Loper's restaurant and his car he used to help Richardson and James to escape.


(Loper Restaurant and car destroyed - Photo: Sangamon Link)


Several black residents were attacked, beaten, homes destroyed in their neighborhood, the Badlands, and eventually had to leave Springfield. The mob had to lynch someone.


(Badland neighborhood were poor African American lived was destroyed by a White mob because Mable Hallam lied that she was raped by Geroge Richardson)







A black entrepreneur decided to stay home to protect his home at 322 N. 12th Street and sent his family away. Scott Burton, a barber in his late 50s, was dragged from his home, beaten, stabbed and shot to death. The White mob then hung his body from a tree at 12th & Madison Street and continued to riddle his dead body with bullets.


Scott Burton is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery.


(Businessman Scott Burton is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL.)


The following day, William Donnegan, an elderly black man in his 80s, was lynched on August 15, 1908. Donnegan was a real estate investor, cobbler, owned an estimated $15,000 worth of property, and married to a white woman. A wealthy black man who was married to a white woman caused anger to the white community. It was and still is a penalty of being black and successful.


(William K. Donnegan - Photo: Sangamon Link)


The mob slit Donnegan's throat with a razor and hanged him on a small tree across from his home at Spring & Edwards Streets.


(The tree were Donnegan was hanged - Photo: Sangamon Link)


Donnegan died the following day, August 16, 1908, at St. John's Hospital.


(Businessman William K. Donnegan is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL.)



On September 1, 1908, Mabel Hallam, who was married, confessed that she LIED that Richardson raped her to cover up an affair with a white lover. She was never prosecuted for the false report. Hallam and her family moved out of Springfield a couple of months later.


For centuries, black men have lost their lives because of White lies (Emmett Till, George Stinney, etc.).


I vividly remember two black college football players of Sacred Heart University, Dhameer Bradley and Malik St. Hilaire were accused of raping a white woman, Nikki Yovino. She lied so she wouldn't lose a relationship with a potential boyfriend.


2017 article "Being black in a world where white lies matter" written by Martenzie Johnson for The Undefeated:


"New York Times writer Wesley Morris excellently laid out the threat of the black penis in American cinema last year: “Be careful near white people. The warning between the lines isn’t hard to spot, either: Be careful because your sexuality, to them, is hazardous.”


Her lies forced Bradley to withdraw from the university and losing his scholarship. St. Hilaire was academically suspended from the university. Both of their reputations were tarnished.


Yovino pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree falsely reporting an incident. She was sentenced to three years but only served one year in prison and received probation.


What is disgusting about the situation, while in court, Yovino had an attitude and was rolling her eyes at her sentencing.


Bradley and St. Hilaire filed a lawsuit against the university and Yovino. I hope these young men got the justice they deserve and are able to have a productive and successful life.


(Mabel Hallam - Photo: Sangamon Link)



George Richardson was released from jail after Hallam's admission. He remained in Springfield and worked as a janitor at Illinois Bell Telephone. He died in 1948 at the age of 76.



Sadly, Joe James was convicted by an all-white jury on circumstantial evidence for the murder of Clergy Ballard. On October 23, 1908, James was hanged in the Sangamon County Jail. His body was transported to Birmingham, AL, for burial by his mom.



Kate Howard, a white woman and rooming house operator, who had hatred toward African Americans, instigated the riot and was involved in the destruction of Loper's Restaurant, was arrested. She was out on bail and was re-arrested on August 26, 1908. She committed suicide by taking poison in the Sangamon County Jail, a couple of weeks after the race riot.


(Katherine Howard - Photo: Sangamon Link)


(Grave of Katherine Howard at Oak Ridge Cemetery.)



On the NPR website dated August 22, 2018, their efforts to rebuild after the Springfield 1908 Race Riot is still in progress after 112 years.


The Springfield Branch of the NAACP is working on an interactive outdoor memorial and healing garden for people to grieve and reflect. The memorial is slated to be completed by 2025.


"Black History Is More Than 28 Days"























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