April 17th, 2011

A Day in Little Egypt: Cairo, IL Pt. 1

Cairo is the southernmost town in Illinois located in Alexander County.

It sits on the banks of the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers.

Because of its location it grew as an important river trade hub, it also served as a supply base for the Union troops during the Civil War.

This once thriving community hit their population high of 20,000 in 1907 but two factors would bring the decline.

The first blow to Cairo was the railroad. People were shipping things faster by rail than by water.

But perhaps the nail in Cairo's coffin was set in decades old racism.

Cairo is the same degree in latitude as Richmond Virginia which was the capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, so it is no surprise that Cairo was more influenced by southern culture than that of the north.

From the lynching of a black man named, Will James in 1909 to a civil rights struggle in 1969 which brought in the National Guard to keep order and the formation of a group called the Cairo United Front which led a decades long boycott of white owned businesses.

In Cairo, most of the businesses were owned by white people so this really crippled the economy of this river town. Population of Cairo now rests below 3000.

When walking the streets of Cairo one is faced with broken down and abandoned scenery. Liquor bottles, beer cans,and trash and the utter sadness of a dying town.

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