Springfield installs plaque remembering lynchings

Monday, August 5, 2002

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- After years of controversy, Springfield now has a permanent reminder of one of the ugliest acts in the city's history -- the 1906 lynching of three black men.

Some of the thousands who gathered over the weekend for annual Park Day events said they hoped that the day's ceremony would help put the lynchings in the past.

"You can't erase what happened, but let's go on," said Sidney Needem, an organizer of the annual reunion. "Let's talk about the good things -- and there are a lot of them."

The bronze marker with gold lettering, roughly 4-inches-by-12-inches, was installed during a ceremony on Park Central Square in the heart of the city's downtown district.

It commemorates the events of Easter weekend 1906, when Horace B. Duncan, Fred Coker and Will Allen were dragged to the town square by a mob of about 7,000 angry over rumors of a white woman's rape. There, in front of women and children, they were lynched and burned.

Within hours, hundreds of blacks fled from the city, leaving it with a nearly all-white population.

The plaque was installed despite the objections of some of the city's black leaders, who said it was time to move past the event.

Black leaders and activists say race relations have improved dramatically in recent years, especially in the center city, which is the most diverse part of the city.

"There are a lot of things changing," said Calvin L. Allen, chair of the Center-City North Group. "There are a lot of things being reinvented."

Springfield's black population is growing, with 3.3 percent of the city's population identified as black, up from 2.4 percent in 1990.

"You see steady, healthy growth," said Mark Dixon, of Caring Communities, a state-funded assistance program for struggling neighborhoods.

However, some say the minority group is eclipsed in a city identified as one of the whitest in the nation.

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