Monday, May 21, 2007

Cairo, Illinois

Ángel Franco/The New York Times

The enigmatic photo above of Cairo, Illinois caught my attention and I thought it was worthy of posting. Here's some background info I got from the New York Times.

Cairo, at one time a presence at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, has its share and more of abandoned businesses these days.

The road has already been long and hard for Cairo (pronounced CARE-oh), a place once accustomed to being at the center of America.

Lewis and Clark camped near here in 1803. Charles Dickens called it “a dismal swamp” in 1842, a rating that Mark Twain upgraded to “brisk town” in 1883. By then it was a thriving port, its location having already proved advantageous to merchants and, in the Civil War, to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army — even though, sitting at the bottom of Illinois, it has always been a Southern town uneasy in Northern garb.

Eventually, a civil rights struggle in the late 1960s exposed Cairo as a simmering, segregated town that blocked its sizable black population from having any say in government. Armed conflict and a protracted business boycott by black residents marked those ugly years.

Civil rights demonstrators marched in Cairo in 1962 to protest segregation in the southern Illinois community.

The city continued to bleed people and businesses. Poverty took root. A casino opportunity went elsewhere. For the past four years, the previous mayor and City Council members fought so vehemently that police officers often stood near the door at meetings, just in case.

Preston Ewing Jr., a native of Cairo who was the president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. during the strife, says that some white residents still blame the boycott for the city’s decline.

Read the rest of the story here.

For further information click Dan Barry - The New York Times


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