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Curriculum Materials

Don Cavallini


Main Ideas
Carl Becker, the well-known historian, defined history as "the memory of things said and done." For another historian, Carl Gustafson, history is a record of humanity's good and evil deeds, and he insists that we cannot turn away from "tenacious reality," no matter how unpleasant.

The race riot that gripped Springfield in that summer of 1908 demonstrates both viewpoints. We need to stop and look history square in the eye, even if it makes us uncomfortable. History offers many lessons. The question we need to ask ourselves is: Can we learn from the mistakes and errors of the past? If we can, history offers hope for the future, with the prospect of a world freed from bigotry and prejudice. The following teaching strategies are designed to encourage students to think about the past while revealing something about themselves as if they were looking into a mirror. History, after all, is a mirror for mankind; it shows us ourselves. Sometimes it is not a pretty picture.


Connection with the Curriculum
Social science and history classes are ideal settings for a study of racial attitudes. As society becomes increasingly diverse and as the teaching of tolerance becomes a part of the general curriculum, the following activities can assist students in understanding the past, their present day-society, and themselves.

Teaching Level
Grades 9 through 12

Materials for Each Student

A copy of the narrative portion of this article

Activity handouts, pen or pencil, newspaper, paper

Objectives for Each Student

Encourage critical thinking and decision-making skills in arriving at individual and group decisions

Gain an appreciation for and understanding of other ethnic groups

Demonstrate a factual knowledge of events surrounding the Springfield race riot

Illustrate and explain concepts, including immigration and ghetto

Determine the effectiveness of techniques designed to avoid confrontation and resolve differences peacefully


Opening the Lesson
Distribute the narrative portion of this article, which describes the race riot in Springfield. Younger students should read the article in class with teacher's help. Advanced students can read the article independently in or out of class.

Developing the Lesson

Distribute each Handout

Follow directions with each Handout

Concluding the Lesson
Each activity relates in some way to the central concepts within the story. A discussion can focus on the motifs that run through this tragic event.

Extending the Lesson
Students can create their own learning activities by developing other ideas or locating other motifs that are present in the story; for example, the role of economics and how it factored into the riot, or the reasons or causes for the riot, which would give students the chance to explore the concept of multiple causation to understand or explain events.

Assessing the Lesson
A traditional quiz or test could be developed to ascertain students' overall knowledge and understanding of the facts and concepts covered in the story. In addition, students could also create a bulletin board highlighting current racial or ethnic problems within or without the United States. Optional research projects could focus on related racial incidents in Illinois, such as the Chicago riot of 1919.


Handout 1 - Moral Judgment Dilemma Activity


"They also wanted Joe James, an out-of-town black who was accused of killing a white railroad engineer, Clergy Ballard, a month earlier.... Late that afternoon, a crowd gathered in front of the jail in the city's downtown and demanded that the police hand over the two men to them. But the police had secretly taken the prisoners out the back door into a waiting automobile and out of town to safety."


Identify specific individuals from the story. List their names and describe their roles.





Read and react to each moral dilemma by checking an appropriate response and answering the "why" question.

Scenario 1

Harry Loper, a white businessman in Springfield who employed several blacks at his upscale restaurant, assisted two black prisoners in escaping the mob by driving them out of the city to a train that took them to safety in Bloomington.

If you were Loper, a prominent businessman with much to lose by alienating a white clientele, what would you have done?

____Yes, I would have done the same thing. Why?

____No, I would not have helped. Why?

____Cannot decide. Why?

Loper's restaurant

Scenario 2

When the angry mob learned that Loper had helped the two blacks escape, it went into a mad frenzy and rampaged through Loper's restaurant, breaking furniture and expensive dishes, and smashing nearly everything in sight.

If you were in the mob, what would you have done?

___ Yes, I would have joined in. Why?


Handout 1 - continued

Joe James - Murderer? Rioter - Guilty?

____No, I would not have participated. Why?

____Cannot decide. Why?

Scenario 3

The trial of Joe James, the black drifter accused of murdering Clergy Ballard, was highlighted in Springfield newspapers.

If you were a member of the jury, how would you decide his fate?

____Guilty. Why?

____Innocent. Why?

____Cannot decide. Why?

Scenario 4

Following the trial of Joe James, the white rioters were put on trial.

If you were on this jury, how would you decide their fate?

____Guilty. Why?

____Innocent. Why?

____Cannot decide. Why?

After students have individually reacted to each scenario, they should now assemble into groups of three to arrive at a collective decision. This can be done either by reaching consensus, or if that fails, by a democratic vote with the majority deciding the issue. Encourage discussion.


Handout 2
The Connection Between
Geography and History


"In Springfield, as in many other northern cities early in the century, black neighborhoods tended to be scattered throughout the city. Very few cities had what later would be called ghettos. No one large, predominantly black neighborhood had yet emerged in Springfield."


Referring to the map labeled "Springfield Wards and Black Neighborhoods," answer the following short answer questions.

Explain by pointing to examples in this story and other situations that illustrate the concept that "events do not occur in isolation."

How many wards are shown on the map?

What is a ward?

Where did most of the blacks live in Springfield?


Springfield Black Wards,
and Neighborhoods

Source: Roberta Senechal, The
Sociogenesis of a Race Riot:

Springfield, Illinois, in 1908
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990).


Handout 2 - continued

What type of businesses were located in the Levee area?

Why was the area along Washington and 10th streets referred to as the Badlands?

What is a ghetto? Describe typical living conditions in one.

Were either of the areas mentioned in the story ghettos? Why or why not?

Why did black ministers and newspapers scold Levee blacks?

How did the movement of blacks into the Levee affect race relations?

Where did the alleged rape of the white woman occur? What did whites fear?

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