This website offers a portal into the Peoria, Illinois world of Richard Pryor’s first twenty years — a passageway into the material he reshaped in his comedy.

There are over 200 documents to explore here, and many stories to explore through them. The story of a family whose family business was a brothel. The story of a black child floating through largely white schools, then finding his home at a black community center. The story of organized vice and the reformers who tried to stamp it out. The story of Midwestern segregation and those who battled to dismantle it.

Pryor eventually left Peoria and became one of America’s greatest comedians and social critics. But in another sense he never escaped his past, or this “ordinary” city that was anything but.