Much like its counterpart in Montgomery, Alabama, Peoria’s civil rights movement was sparked by a successful bus boycott. But in Peoria, where blacks had long ridden together with whites on city buses, the goal was to open up a sphere of employment: to get “every qualified Negro driver” hired.

Illinois NAACP vice president Reverend Blaine Ramsey helped spearhead the action, noting that “For a city pledged to progress, it seems paradoxical that such unfair employment practices could go unnoticed.”

Local NAACP president John Gwynn, the prime mover behind Peoria’s civil rights movement for the next decade, took this observation one step further. “We only have token integration here in Peoria,” he said. “We have to bind together.”