For seven semesters, Photojournalist-in Residence Phil Greer has sent his students to Cairo to record images of the life in that river city.
The students returned with hundreds of vivid photos of faces and places - from little children playing in the street to seniors chatting over coffee, from
the Civil War mansions of Magnolia Drive to the crumbling buildings of Commercial Avenues. The students have been in the homes, churches, restaurants, bars
and social clubs of Cairo. Lasting relationships have been formed between the citizens of Cairo and the students. Misconceptions based on the past history
of this river town have been struck down.
In 2007, the School of Journalism decided to marry the hundreds of vivid photos with in-depth reporting. Student journalists interviewed dozens of Cairo residents
and dug up new information about decades-old events. One student, Nathaniel Taylor, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the FBI files relating to
the death of Pfc. Robert Hunt, who was found hanging in the Cairo jail in the summer of 1967. Pfc. Hunt's death ignited a long and sometimes violent civil rights
era in the town. The FBI files showed that the agency decided immediately after the death not to investigate the possibility of foul play for fear of inciting a
Another story, this one by Jaclyn Brenning, described the dysfunction of town government. A third, by Jarel Loveless, described the difficulties
of the Cairo public schools where the average ACT score is an abysmal 15 and where about 17 percent of the female students are pregnant or already mothers.
The idea of the project is twofold. One is to teach students how to produce multimedia reports that use all modern means of communication - the Web, audio, video,
soundslides. A hardback book of the reporting and photographs was published in the fall of 2007. This is the Web version, which adds soundslides, photo stories and
The second purpose of The Cairo Project is to report on a subject of public importance to southern Illinois. We are working with the Paul Simon Public
Policy Institute and Cairo leaders to plan a conference on the city's history and future. We will present copies of the book to the community at that time and will
update this site.
This report, prepared as the town celebrated its 150th birthday, is intended to tell Cairo's story and to help Cairo's proud residents chart their journey through
the second half of the town's second century.
We hope the people of Cairo will enjoy this work. We wish to thank them for being so open and forthcoming. Sometimes things change when a light is shined on problems
in a community.
William H Freivogel
Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Journalism