Past Event

East St. Louis, Illinois: Where History, Courage, and Community Meet

A Road Scholar Program by Sandra Pfeifer

East St. Louis, Illinois, is currently one of the most predominantly African American cities in the United States. In 1917, however, white residents of East St. Louis attempted to “rid the city” of its black population in one of the most violent race riots in American history.

Sandra Pfeifer, producer of Against All the Odds (2009), a documentary film about East St. Louis, hopes to increase public awareness of the riot and its long-term significance. Her 90-minute program will consist of three 30-minute segments. Part one will feature clips from Against All the Odds focusing on the horrific events of July 2, 1917, incorporating primary sources and first-hand accounts.

Part two will include a role-playing exercise in which volunteers from the audience will read quotations from victims of the violence, taken from a lengthy report resulting from a government investigation of the riot that was not made available to the public for 70 years. The volunteers will discuss how it feels to speak of the victims’ experiences in the first person. The audience will then be invited to discuss the question of why public knowledge of the riot is important.

Part three will begin with a short video poem by Treasure Shields Redmond reflecting on her childhood experiences in East St. Louis. The audience will then discuss the question, “What is the most important thing to know about East St. Louis?” in light of information about the long-term effects of the 1917 riot, as well as clips from Against All the Odds highlighting residents’ ongoing, diligent efforts to preserve and perpetuate the rich culture of their community.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Sarah Wingate at