Two journalists compare race relations in Central Illinois, explains not much changed since 1970

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"When you look at this mirror that you could put up in 1970 and 2020 and still see some of the same social and economic dynamics{...} it is heartbreaking" Retired Journalist Garry Moore said.

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Central Illinois is not immune to the impacts of slavery, segregation and discriminatory policies.

Coming on the heels of the progress from the civil rights movement, local black families still faced substantial challenges to overcome. As retired journalists, Garry Moore and Pam Adams are no strangers to chronicling the layered history of Central Illinois.

“When you look at this mirror that you could put up in 1970 and 2020 and still see some of the same social and economic dynamics, as she said it is heartbreaking,” Moore said.

Adams also adds, “In order to justify what happened to Black people, to Native Americans, there’s so much that had to be denied.”

Adams, raised on the south side of Peoria, and a veteran reporter in the local newspaper industry. And Moore, working 33 years in local television, serving as the longest-running morning news anchor in Central Illinois broadcast history. WMBD’s Shelbey Roberts and the two discussed what race relations looked like in Central Illinois in the 1970s, only 50 years ago.

“You saw a push for Black employment in many areas. You saw the school integration plan. You saw housing–you know–efforts to integrate housing,” Adams said.

Coming on the heels of the Civil Rights movement, the fight for Black Americans to be seen as equals was far from over.

“The tension comes from within because you look at what the privileged white folks have. These advantages, you know, ” Moore said. “They’re steps ahead of you.”

Legislative changes to integrate school systems and neighborhoods had a ripple effect.

Adams said, “At that time is also where you saw the growth of the suburbs around here where white people were leaving, you know?”

Moore said it was a “White flight.” Adams agreed, “Yeah. White flight.”

The term referring to large populations of white people moving away from areas that have become increasingly more populated by minority groups. Peoria’s south side, a prime example. The once-bustling corridor of businesses is also no more.

Moore explained, “The center of the city moved from Main Street to Forrest Hill to University you know. And the consequence of that is what? Your tax base is gone and so now you don’t have as much money to have good schools, you know jobs, employment, etc.”

The effects of this layered history are present in Central Illinois today. For Adams and Moore, the bridge between pain and paradise is progress.

But still, Adams said, “There has been a tremendous amount of progress.”

“But that’s what makes the issues more profound,” Moore added. And Adams responded saying, “Yeah and that’s what I was going to say is, but the cost–the struggle to get there has been rough.”

The two hoping that education and learning more comprehensive history serve as the equalizers of advancement in America.

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