WOODSTOCK, Ill. — A northern Illinois city is planning to recognize a civil rights activist with a plaque on its courthouse, despite concerns that the historical marker could turn off donors.
The Northwest Herald (http://bit.ly/2rSuFon ) reports the plaque will be in memory of Eugene V. Debs, who founded the Socialist Party of America, was a five-time presidential candidate and served as president of the American Railway Union. Debs was jailed for six months in Woodstock after disobeying a court order that tried to stop him from leading a railway worker strike.
Kathleen Spaltro, a Woodstock Celebrates Inc. board member, has led the effort to create the $1,500 plaque, which will be paid for though the city’s tax increment financing fund.
“He is highly significant in the history of constitutional protection of freedom of speech,” she said.
William Furry, with the Illinois State Historical Society, said the plaque will be one of the most important historical markers to be placed in Illinois in the past 20 years.
He said the marker highlight Debs’ entry into national politics, “the history of labor unrest in Illinois as exemplified by the Pullman strike, and one of the most important First Amendment challenges in American history.”
But the nonprofit Friends of the Old Courthouse opposes the idea, saying it’ll make it difficult to raise funds for historic buildings. Board member Julie Miller says she’s concerned the marker is too politically charged.
“We feel the proposed marker can be viewed as celebrating socialism and labor unions,” she said. “This may lead to the building being thought of as a monument to those ideas.
Information from: The Northwest Herald, http://www.nwherald.com