East St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at the East St. Louis Heritage Festival on Sunday. Aug. 26, 2018
Provided by lllinois Bicentennial Commission

East St. Louis will celebrate its own rich history on Sunday as it joins about a dozen Illinois cities holding celebrations to mark the state’s bicentennial.

The East St. Louis Heritage Festival at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center will note the 200th anniversary of the state’s first constitution, signed in Kaskaskia on Aug. 26, 1818. The festival also will celebrate remarkable East St. Louisans, like iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, and others.

The John Robinson Homes opened in 1943 as a segregated apartment complex for black families in East St. Louis.
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

The door is off its hinges in Farlon Wilson’s bathroom. Wilson said that’s an improvement from when she first moved in, when there was no bathroom door at all. She said she’s putting in work orders to fix the problems nearly every week.

“The tub won’t stop leaking and the floor is about to fall,” Wilson said while demonstrating how the floor bends under the pressure of her foot. “I have no access to my bathroom water, period. I’ve had to turn it off because it’s leaking in my kitchen.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, she motioned to a patch in the ceiling where water once leaked through and later talked about how she and her family’s breathing has been affected by mold. She pays less than $100 a month in rent.

Florince Harlan stands in the courtyard of the John Robinson Houses, the public housing complex where her daughter Alexis Winston was killed on Aug. 8, 2017
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

This article was produced in partnership with The Southern Illinoisan, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

Sterling Moody re-arranges shelves at Neighbors' Market, his new East St. Louis grocery store. April 6, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Neighbors’ Market, which promises to focus on healthy food options, is expected to open its doors in East St. Louis this month.

The market will be a full-service grocery store with a dairy and frozen food section, a robust produce aisle, and a butcher’s area for cutting fresh meats daily. The store has already employed its own chef, who will prepare soups, salads and sandwiches. 

The Rev. Starsky Wilson spoke at the Parents United for Change meeting Wednesday March 14, 2018.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Low-income families who live in public housing in East St. Louis are burdened by hidden fees that keep them trapped in debt, according to a survey conducted by the Stepping Out of Poverty campaign.

To help families escape the escalating debts, a group of East St. Louis parents is fighting the housing authority fees they say prevent families from moving and keep people impoverished. Parents United for Change have met with the East St. Louis Housing Authority to negotiate new policies that would limit the fees.

St. Clair County state's attorney Brendan Kelly holds a photo of Quiantez Fair, who was killed in East St. Louis in October. Kelly and law enforcement officials are asking people to help them solve the murder of Fair and 25 other people in the city.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Law enforcement officials in East St. Louis are making a year-end push for witnesses to come forward in unsolved homicides.

Thirty-four people have been killed in East St. Louis so far this year. But police have been able to solve just eight of those cases. That clearance rate of 24 percent is well below the national average, which was about 60 percent in 2016.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
Gage Skidmore | Flickr

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is urging people in the St. Louis region to make sure protests do not disintegrate into violence.

During a stop Thursday in East St. Louis, Carson said he hoped the protests would generate a broader understanding of the challenges facing the St. Louis region.

Head Start teacher Chea Wyatt guides Kennydi Harris through an exercise June 23, 2017 at the East St. Louis Kindergarten readiness camp.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time this school year, Illinois public schools statewide are required to measure and report how prepared their kindergartners were for school.

The state board of education is collecting the data to better understand what regions are lacking preschool access.

However, area school districts are concerned the reporting process is time consuming. Several expressed doubt that the information will be useful.

Drummers lead participants through East St. Louis to remember the 1917 race riot on July 2, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 100 people marked the 100th anniversary of a deadly race riot in East St. Louis Sunday by crossing the Eads Bridge into St. Louis.

About 6,000 African-Americans fled the violence by the same route on July 3, 1917, when mobs of white men, and some women, attacked black people following months of tension over jobs.

Historian Anne Walker is surrounded by family photos in the living room of her home in East St. Louis. June 2017
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of East St. Louis will gather on Sunday to remember the victims of the bloody 1917 race riot with a solemn processional to the Eads Bridge.

On July 2-3, 1917, mobs of white people, angered over labor issues, roved through the city, assaulting African-Americans and burning their homes and businesses.

Although the official death toll was 48 — 39 blacks and 9 whites — historians believe more than 100 people died and hundreds were injured, including women and children.

Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis helps Jemez Jackson Harris IV close a bracelet he made to practice patterns June 23, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ordinarily Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis would be on vacation during the summer. But this year she is spending six weeks at an East St. Louis elementary school teaching 5 and 6 year olds who’ve never been to preschool.

Andrea Purnell and Gregory Carr discussed "Tinderbox," Carr's play based on the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

July 2, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 20th century: the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Gregory Carr, an instructor of speech and theater at Harris-Stowe State University, and actress Andrea Purnell joined the program to discuss “Tinderbox,” his play based on the history of the event. 

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Andrew Theising was sitting behind the steering wheel of his car, pointing out the pathways of city streets that vanished long ago beneath a parking lot in downtown East St. Louis.

“This is where the homes were burned,’’ he said, solemnly. “This is where African-Americans were hung from the streetlights. This was the height of the violence and the bloodshed.’’

A family flees violence in East St. Louis following the 1917 race riots.
Courtesy of East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative

The social, economic and political factors that led to the deadly East St. Louis race riots 100 years ago will be examined at a conference that begins Friday. 

The point is to educate people about the riots while beginning an ongoing conversation about what the region still faces today, said the Rev. Joseph Brown, chairman of the East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission.

A mob stops a street car during the East St. Louis race riots, which started on July 2, 1917.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Libraries

The East St. Louis race riots have gone down in history as some of the worst examples of race relations in the St. Louis region. This Sunday, May 28, is the 100-year anniversary of the first, smaller riot. July 2 is the 100-year anniversary of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 1900s.

Related: St. Louis History in Black and White: East St. Louis Race Riot

Tiffany Lee and Reginald Petty recently published "Legendary East St. Louisans."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Miles Davis. Katherine Dunham. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. These are three household names you may know who have connections to East St. Louis. But they are not the only African-American East St.

The pilot program only covers the City of East St. Louis, not unincorporated areas.
Heather Anne Campbell | Flickr

A pilot program between East St. Louis and the state of Illinois is expected to streamline the inspection process for more than 50 retailers in the city who hold liquor licenses. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is training local officials to make sure the businesses are following state and local laws.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says St. Clair County's proposal for the NGA's relocation to Scott Air Force Base is better than those for three Missouri sites.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are honored to welcome U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to the program.

The Illinois Democrat serves as the Senate minority whip, making him the second most powerful member of his party next to the minority leader. He recently won another term in office in the 2014 election cycle.

A mob stops a street car during the East St. Louis race riots, which started on July 2, 1917.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Libraries

One hundred years after the 1917 East St. Louis race riots a permanent monument to victims will be dedicated, and educational programs, musical and theatrical presentation, and other events will be held.

The East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative announced its plans Wednesday. Commission vice chairman Edmond Brown, president of ELB Enterprises, said the monument will “commemorate those lost during that time, to act as a point of education as well as for healing of the community.” Commission chairman, the Rev. Joseph Brown, a professor of Africana studies at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said there will also be “rituals taking place around East St. Louis to respect the places where we know people were murdered.”

Miles Davis' childhood home is without siding. Workers are installing a new roof.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside the shell of a modest house in East St. Louis, there is nothing to let a visitor know that one of the nation’s most noted musicians once called it home.

The interior of the one-story structure is skeletal — all bare studs and dust. But when Lauren Parks and Jasper Gery Pearson are inside, they can see the space where a young Miles Davis got his start in life, years before creating the music that would make him one of the biggest names in jazz. They hope to turn the trumpeter’s childhood home into a museum and educational space that will inspire children.

Pages