Benjamin Alexander, an African-American chemist, detailed his experience as a member in Peoria’s Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter during their sit-ins on Bishop’s Cafeteria and the Jefferson Hotel in the 1946.
Alexander, who later became a scientist of note and a leader of the black community in Washington D.C., described Peoria as a city “riddled with racial hatred and discrimination”. He recalled the great physical risks that black and white members of CORE faced because of their activism, and the social ostracism faced by the white members.
Alexander’s memoir also paints a surprising picture of the interracial alliance behind CORE. In his recollection, the white members of CORE hailed from the West Bluff Christian Church in the Bluffs, the more affluent area of Peoria.
Black members, meanwhile, were few and far between, and faced resistance in their own community. Alexander remembered how a friend, who happened to be one of the few black policemen in Peoria, discouraged his efforts.