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Springfield Reflects: 50th Anniversary Of Civil Rights Act

Updated: Wednesday, July 2 2014, 08:41 AM CDT
Springfield today, a city where people can walk freely, children can go to any public school and their parents can live in any neighborhood. But things weren't always that way.

"African Americans could only live in certain places such as Madison Street, 15th Place, 14th Street and even 12th Place," said Ida Jackson, a Springfield resident for 75 years.

50 years ago South 11th Street, now called Reconciliation Way, was considered the dividing line between whites and blacks.

Ida Jackson still remembers visiting her friend on that side of town.

"When we went out there the people on their porches started throwing stuff at us and calling us names. We felt we brought her over to our house and she was accepted," said Jackson.

Finally on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law which outlawed. discrimination, but changes didn't come to Springfield until 10 years later.

"I don' think that most of people who were trying to come here, come as we say north, didn't realize they have worse conditions than they had when they were down south," said Jackson.

Springfield resident Bob Church still remembers attending an all white school. It wasn't until his high school years that he experienced first hand what it was like to sit side by side in a classroom with other African American students.

"They were just students like everybody else and there were no problems," said Church.

Church is almost 70 years old. He says it wasn't until  the civil rights movement that he realized the severity of discrimination in the City of Springfield.

"In 1962 after graduation some of the black students had gone to a local restaurant that I had been to. They were denied access to that restaurant on that particular night," said Church.

Ida Jackson admits Springfield has come a long way, but discrimination still remains.

"Really I am positive, but the only time I think they will have everything is when Jesus comes," said Jackson.

Ida Jackson points out some work Springfield city leaders still need to do, which includes the importance of hiring more African American teachers in the school district.

She says she never had a black teacher until she was in college and that same problem remains for some children today.

The Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum are planning a program this summer to highlight the civil rights movement and why Springfield took so long in making changes towards equality.Springfield Reflects: 50th Anniversary Of Civil Rights Act

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