Around the start of the 20th century, Springfield, Illinois was a rapidly-growing industrial center, with the highest percentage of African Americans of any comparably sized city in Illinois. Blacks had been migrating for work and with 2300 residents, in 1900 comprised 6.5 percent of the town's population. Although they were generally kept to lower-class and unskilled jobs, and lived in segregated areas, there was fierce job competition with European immigrants. Industries sometimes used black workers as strikebreakers during labor strikes. Town residents worried about growing political power.
"It is the central paradox of our history that a nation based on the respect for law and order should so often resort to violence to maintain the inequities of race and class."
- Nine historical markers describe key moments in the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, and mark a self-guided walk for visitors.
- In August 2008, for a centennial commemoration of the riot, the Citizens Club held a re-enactment of the first murder trial of Abraham Raymer, with the audience to act as jurors and stimulate discussion about what happened.