R. Beverly Peters

R. Beverly
Peters
Springfield
Nominated By: 
The Honorable Timothy J. Davlin

Beverly Peters, retired Deputy Director of Finance for IDOT, is being honored for her work as Chair of Mayor Timothy J. Davlin's 1908 Race Riot Commemoration Commission. The 1908 Race Riot, two days of rioting and destruction by an angry white mob that culminated in the lynching of two prominent members of Springfield's black community, is a sobering and shameful chapter in the history of Springfield that was allowed to slip into oblivion.

In 2008, as the City and the rest of the county was preparing for the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, Mayor Davlin also felt that it was an appropriate time to remember not only the birth of the 16th president, but also the Race Riot and the subsequent founding of the NAACP. Beverly was chosen to head the commission, where she recruited other community leaders to the committee, all with the goal of reintroducing Springfield to its past while promoting reconciliation. The Commission spearheaded the effort to rename Eleventh Street to Reconciliation Way. They also oversaw the refashioning of modest historical markers into prominent wayside displays depicting the story of the Riot that run along the path of destruction in downtown Springfield and commissioned a bronze sculpture by artist Preston Jackson (depicting the aftermath of the riots) that now has a permanent home in Union Station Park, directly across the street from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Finally, they developed a special section for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau website that provided a calendar of events related to the Race Riot anniversary.

When searching for a commission leader, Mayor Davlin selected Beverly because she is "a truly unique person who could bridge the politics of memory." As leader of the Commission, she "masterfully guided our City on an emotional remembrance of painful racial divide toward deeper understanding and racial reconciliation."