East Saint Louis Oral History Project:
Neighborhood Activism and Community Change
in Emerson Park and Lansdowne Neighborhoods
UP260, Fall 2001




In the fall of 2001, students in UP260 participated in a well established community outreach program with the East St. Louis Participatory Action Research Project (ESLARP). In addition to the workweek activities, UP260 students interviewed neighborhood activists from East St. Louis as part of an oral history project. The interviews provide the students with an opportunity to engage in experiential learning about social inequality and to discover what individual people are doing to create positive change in their neighborhoods. The oral history component documents the lives of individuals who have dedicated many years to neighborhood improvement efforts. East St. Louis is known as one of the most economically depressed African American communities in the United States, reinforcing a negative image of African American life in the city. While, many residents in East St. Louis live in poverty conditions, the oral history project provides an alternative picture into the lives of people who have worked towards creating a better community for their families and neighbors. These are the beginning of an oral history that will be a valuable community resource for local residents and UIUC students who want to learn more about East St. Louis, social capital and community change.