The Forgotten Ghetto of Cairo, Illinois

Cairo, Illinois is a small rural community located in the southern tip of Illinois with over 2,000 people living in a forgotten city.

The story of this predominantly African-American city consists of racism, isolation, and an overall decline.

The small town of Cairo once had a thriving community during the 1800s due to the amount of business that shipping along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers brought into the city.

Unfortunately, the construction of railroads, bridges, and highways isolated the city due to the fact that there was no need for people to stop in Cairo any longer.


With the construction of new transportation routes, the city of Cairo lost much business, since the majority of the city’s business was from out of towners.

Gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and all other businesses that would accommodate to visitors began to close, which would be the leading cause for the city of Cairo to decline.

With slavery being big in the nearby states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee, there has always been a black population in the city of Cairo.

As more and more African-Americans relocated from major cities like St. Louis or Chicago and from rural towns in nearby southern states, the black population grew into a sizable community.

With the city being divided with a black and a white community there was always racial tension that has led to discrimination, lynchings, and even a very violent race riot during the 1960s.

After the city’s race riot, most of Cairo’s white population decided to leave the small city of Cairo.

With the city being predominantly African-American for the past few decades, the people of Cairo have to overcome a various of other problems.

Problems that range from historic flooding to poverty as the city has a very small tax base with a population that is on a steady decline.


Check out more of other communities in Illinois.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.