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Journey's to Justice Research Project; A $30,000 Initiative

Recently, The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) awarded $30,000 to a new social innovation seed grant project, and Western Illinois University Professor of History Peter Cole is a co-principal investigator of the initiative.

“I’m thrilled to partner with historians, community activists and others to examine the history of Illinois including some of its most troublesome aspects,” Cole said. “We believe that we must uplift these events because they have profound, long-lasting consequences across our state. I’m especially excited that we will organize a bus trip for 50 people from across the state of Illinois to visit the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL. Bryan Stevenson, the founder of EJI, is a national and even global leader in the work of historical memory. In Montgomery, he has helped create a memorial and museum dedicated to the history of lynching in the United States. I believe that the people of Illinois and the entire country never will heal and move beyond our long history of racial violence and prejudice until we, first, acknowledge what occurred and why. This grant will bring people from Chicago, Springfield and Metro East (Illinois suburbs of STL) including on a short trip

 to Montgomery. In doing so, we will learn from each other about what's happened in various parts of Illinois and forge ties that we hope will grow into new projects and connections.”

The funded project, “Journeys to Justice: Commemorating and Memorializing the History and Legacy of Anti-Black Terror in Illinois,” launches a statewide initiative to promote and support the research and remembrance of anti-Black riots, massacres and lynchings in Illinois, all funded by the University of Illinois System.

The work is led by Cole, University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) Associate Professors Devin Hunter and Lesa Johnson and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Assistant Professor Tandra Taylor.

Through this initiative, Cole and his colleagues, community scholars and activists from different parts of the state have been engaging in efforts to uplift the history of racial violence in Illinois--specifically, the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917 and Chicago Race Riot of 1919. This grant will allow people interested in the historical memory of racial violence to collaborate across the state of Illinois.

“I teach about the history of Chicago 1919 in my classes including this semester in my Introduction to US History. In a previous semester, when I taught a seminar on public history to seniors and MA students, this project was a focus,” Cole said.

“This semester, I'm supervising an internship with an undergraduate (who also happens to be a WIU employee, Ron Pettigrew) on CRR19. We're hoping to create a future summer course for WIU and/or Macomb HS students to go to Chicago for, say, a week to visit locations related to 1919 and Black History and, ideally, build-in a special project for them to contribute to,” Cole said.

IIN is a network of 15 hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. Most hubs are at public universities. Proposals for seed grants were required to include a meaningful collaboration between at least two IIN hubs and were encouraged to include other hubs or community organizations.

For more information on the IIN grant, visit

If anyone is interested in getting involved in this initiative, please contact Cole at

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