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Thursday, Nov 7, 2019

* Logan Jaffe with ProPublica Illinois writing in The Atlantic

I got into town just after sunset. The lights were on at a place called the Brick House Grill, and if you were out on South Main Street on a Friday night in February, chances are, that’s where you were going. So I went in, too.

I took a seat at the bar. A man two stools over from me struck up a conversation. I told him I was a journalist from Chicago and asked him to tell me about this town. “You know how this town is called Anna?” he started. “That’s for ‘Ain’t No N*****s Allowed.’” He laughed, shook his head, and took a sip of his beer.

The man was white. I am white. Everyone else in that restaurant in Anna was white.

Later that night, I realized what shook me most about our conversation: He didn’t pause before he said what he said. He didn’t look around the room to see whether anyone could hear us. He didn’t lower his voice. He just said it.

Anyone who has ever spent much time in southern Illinois knows about A-N-N-A.

* More

Hartline grew up in Cobden, the town just north of Anna. He’s been Anna’s mayor for nearly 20 years, and he served in its police department for 15 years before that. He said he can’t think of a single incident in Anna that had race at its center that had taken place in his years of public service.

But these incidents happened. In March 2013, four young white men attacked a black 16-year-old in a parking lot behind a furniture store on Main Street. According to police reports, one of the suspects allegedly tried to sodomize the victim with either a tire iron or an ax handle. Although one of the young men told police they attacked the victim because he was black, the police did not charge the four men with a hate crime.

In 2017, in the aftermath of the white-supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a white Anna resident named Tabitha Tripp said at a Union County board meeting that she was concerned about hate incidents in the county, and she asked the county commissioners to consider a resolution, identical to one that had recently passed the Illinois House, condemning hate groups.

The proposal was never brought up for a vote, in part because commissioners said they didn’t believe it was their job to address such concerns. “The more you talk about it, it just creates that issue more,” Max Miller, Union County’s board chairman, told me. “I just didn’t think it was worth talking about.”

Some sundown towns in the Midwest have begun to confront their legacies. In March 2015, the city council of Goshen, Indiana, voted 6–0 to pass “A Resolution Acknowledging the Racially Exclusionary Past of Goshen, Indiana, as a ‘Sundown Town.’” In late 2016, the mayor of La Crosse, Wisconsin, formally apologized for the city’s history of racial exclusion and signed a proclamation to work toward racial equality. “We’ve got issues and are not shirking away from those issues,” Mayor Tim Kabat, who is white, told the La Crosse Tribune. “We recognize this is a problem and need to do something about it.”

The Union County Board of Commissioners is all white. So is the Anna city council, the Anna Police Department, and every teacher at Anna-Jonesboro High School, the public high school serving Anna. “I wish we had more diversity on our staff,” said Brett Detering, the school’s principal.

There’s lots more, so go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - SOIL M - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:43 pm:

    But they missed what U-N-I-O-N County stands for

  2. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:44 pm:

    It’s impossible to erase the past of so many southern Illinois towns. Over the last twenty five years it has gotten better. Little by little. Not enough. Not fast enough.

  3. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:48 pm:

    ===it has gotten better.===

    Not in Anna apparently. And if this is “better,” it makes me shudder to think how bad it must have been 25 years ago.

  4. - g - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:50 pm:

    People need to be educated about where skin color actually comes from…. Many aren’t. One of the gentlemen in article said it best “the old heads haven’t died yet.”

  5. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:50 pm:

    The problem has never been confined to Southern Illinois. My dad’s friends would come visit us in Oak Lawn in the 70s, but they’d be sure to be gone before dark.

  6. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:54 pm:

    You don’t have to go to southern IL for this, unfortunately.

    Plainfield has a reputation of being the location of the largest klan rally in the country in the past.

    When anyone tries to discuss this, it is brushed off with exactly the same language;

    “Talking about it just attracts attention to it and that doesn’t accomplish anything”

    This has been said by the director of the local historical society. Pretending it didn’t exist is an odd approach for a historical society, but it quickly becomes obvious why this approach is taken.

    In the 1990s, when plainfield had its first non-white postmaster, there were death threats left in her car and constant harassment until she up and quit one day.

    That’s why you talk about the past history of a town, and try to acknowledge and address it.

    Otherwise it will keep happening.

    In 2018, plainfield made the news again when the village board denied zoning for a Muslim group, in what national news organizations described as “one of the most clear cut cases of discrimination you will ever see”.

    Ignoring the past is a sure fire way for those attitudes to continue into the present.

  7. - SOIL M - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:55 pm:

    47th—25 years ago? You should have seen it in the 70s…many fights during ball games with visiting teams

  8. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    When I was a teen just out of high school and working in Chicago’s Near South Side, our black truck driver, a very engaging fellow and partier nicknamed “Freemo”, mentioned that he had no fear going into “white” areas of the city and suburbs and carrying on after dark.
    “Except Cicero. I wouldn’t ever go in an alley behind one of those late-night bars in Cicero.”

  9. - El Conquistador - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    I simply don’t understand how some people think…

  10. - Scott Cross for President - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 4:19 pm:

    Earlier this year, Governing magazine published a series arising from its six-month investigation of black-white segregation in the small cities of downstate Illinois. “The area is the veritable byword for Middle America, and it helped launch the political careers of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. But it also includes some of the most segregated places in the country.”

    Worth a read:

  11. - thunderspirit - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 4:33 pm:

    Just read this before I saw it here, actually. I lived in Carbondale for a number of years and made more than one trip to A-J during that time. Its reputation was well earned, and often displayed as something of a badge of honor, in the early 90s.

  12. - Merica - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 4:41 pm:

    why do chicago taxpayers pay for Anna’s schools (at least teacher pensions), roads, and bridges?

  13. - Excitable Boy - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 5:19 pm:

    You don’t have to leave Chicago for this, either. Hang out in Wrigleyville, or at blue collar bars in the city, you’ll hear this type of talk. I only hope it gets rarer with each generation.

  14. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 5:46 pm:

    SOIL M-
    30ish years ago read in The Blue Book or Handbook of Illinois Government that Union County was named after a meeting / joining of Baptists and German Dunkards (correct spelling).

  15. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 5:50 pm:

    It’s amazing how it’s outsiders who keep this story alive. I’d never heard the story of the attack behind the furniture store. It suggests that it never actually happened as it didn’t make the news, or was based on something else instead.

  16. - SOIL M - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 5:50 pm:

    Anyone Remember— actually I was referring to something along the lines of A-N-N-A.

    It’s along the lines of U—-Is Out Numbered for the County

  17. - anon2 - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 6:34 pm:

    == It’s impossible to erase the past of so many southern Illinois towns.==

    North suburban Kenilworth started with restrictive racial covenants that excluded blacks and Jews.

  18. - anon2 - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 6:38 pm:

    == It’s amazing how it’s outsiders who keep this story alive. I’d never heard the story of the attack behind the furniture store. It suggests that it never actually happened ==

    Anna and neighboring Jonesboro had signs on Hwy 127 as recently as the 1970s warning blacks to be out of town by sunset, according to the book, SUNDOWN TOWNS: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (The New Press, 2005) by Professor James W. Loewen, who grew up in Decatur.

    There was also a race riot in Anna-Jonesboro in 1909. Anna wasn’t unique. The 1908 race riot in Springfield included the lynching of two black men. Eight were killed in Romeoville when whites expelled all the town’s African Americans in 1893. Other race riots in small IL towns came in East Alton and Spring Valley (1893), Virden (1898), Pana (1899), Carterville (1901), Eldorado (1902), West Frankfort (1920), and Vienna (1954).

  19. - Not a Billionaire - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 7:20 pm:

    Oh that blog.
    I remember Cairo being in the news a lot when I was little late sixties.

  20. - StraightOuttaCobden - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 7:21 pm:

    This is why we stick to Cobden, Cairo, and Makanda when we are down there.

  21. - Our Joe - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 7:54 pm:

    I live one county away and have for years. Most everything south of Carbondale is Mississippi. Hasn’t changed. To paraphrase that state’s native son: Down here the past isn’t forgotten, it’s not even past.

  22. - Southwest Sider - Thursday, Nov 7, 19 @ 9:39 pm:

    Unfair to pick out that one town. I’ve spent time there and “surprise” there is a bit of diversity.
    I’ve heard that word used in Chicago, unfortunately.

  23. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Nov 8, 19 @ 8:11 am:

    == It’s amazing how it’s outsiders who keep this story alive. I’d never heard the story of the attack behind the furniture store. It suggests that it never actually happened as it didn’t make the news, or was based on something else instead.==

    Logan Jaffe said it was in the Anna police reports.

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