There is more to the South than Mardi Gras, Blues, Cajun cooking, and white guys with confederate flags in the back of their trucks. Photos from Cairo, Illinois.
Cairo had two strongly distinctive faces. On the one hand, there’s been an attempt to restore much of the history of the town, including its many unusual buildings: some dating from the Civil War when General Grant was stationed in the community. On the other hand, the poverty of the people manifests in the many boarded up and abandoned buildings, some used as wild cat havens; or destroyed by tornado and just left, fallen in the streets. There is no yellow tape around the remains, no warnings of danger. You could walk in the middle of the street, and no one would care. In addition, a racial divide is strong in the town: walk along 8th street, and the people are white; a block over, they’re entirely black.
Historical society mansion
Glory days gone
Imagine, also, a finger of land about a mile wide, bordered by two of the biggest, fiercest rivers in the country; accessible by one bridge going to Missouri, the other, a 1/4 mile away, to Kentucky. What land there is, is the richest in the world; top soil a hundred feet deep, as one would expect from the northernmost point of the Mississippi Delta. To this geography, add a Civil War history, turn of the century opulence giving away to extreme poverty and race riots. This is Cairo, Illinois. This is the South.
Barge heading from the Ohio to the Sip