Above: Preston Jackson at work on his tribute to Dr. C.T. Vivian, who passed away on July 17, 2020.
Peoria’s history is rich with stories untold. Many residents are likely unaware that a major figure of the Civil Rights Movement lived and worked in Peoria before achieving national acclaim. A graduate of Macomb High School and Western Illinois University, Dr. C.T. Vivian started his professional career as recreation director at the Carver Center. His role as an activist began in 1947—right here in Peoria—when he participated in one of the nation’s first sit-in demonstrations, which led to the successful integration of Barton’s Cafeteria. He went on to join forces with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and became an icon in his own right.
Upon Dr. Vivian’s passing on July 17, 2020, artist Preston Jackson formalized his longstanding intention to bring his story to a broader audience through public art. Plans call for sculptures to be placed in three cities where Dr. Vivian lived and greatly influenced the community— Peoria, Macomb, and Atlanta, Georgia.
“Much of my work deals with the subject of our history—I want to represent the untold history and struggles of those who have been marginalized by our society,” Jackson explains. “Individuals such as Dr. C.T. Vivian, although well known to many of us, are little known to our younger generations and I am greatly concerned that his principles and hard-fought battles will be forgotten.”
The Committee on Recognizing Achievement (CORA), a committee through the African American Hall of Fame Museum, is raising funds for the project. Donations can be made via Jackson’s fundraiser on Facebook or mailed to CORA, PO Box 462, Peoria, IL 61651. (Make checks payable to the African American Hall of Fame Museum and note “CORA” in the memo.)
Sadly, another local legend passed away during the creation of this issue. Nita Sunderland was a world-renowned sculptor who restored numerous public monuments in central Illinois and elsewhere—including Peace and Harvest, the two WPA sculptures on our cover. This space does not allow for a summation of her long and productive career, but I would be remiss if we did not acknowledge her greatness.
— Jonathan Wright, Editor In Chief