Cairo, Illinois

Cairo, Illinois

name = Cairo
native_name =
other_name =
category = City
etymology = Cairo, Egypt
official_name =
motto =
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image_caption = The massive gate that closes the town's protective levee is visible behind the railroad bridge

symbol =
country = United States
state = Illinois
region = Alexander
region_type = County
district =
district_type =
municipality =
location =
elevation_imperial = 315
prominence_imperial =
lat_d = 37
lat_m = 0
lat_s = 47
lat_NS = N
long_d = 89
long_m = 10
long_s = 49
long_EW = W
coordinates_no_title = 1
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length_imperial =
length_orientation =
area_imperial = 9.1
area_land_imperial =
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population = 3632
population_date = 2000
population_urban =
population_metro =
population_density = 198.9
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established = 1858
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mayor = Judson Childs
leader =
leader_type = Mayor
timezone = CST
utc_offset = -6
timezone_DST = CDT
utc_offset_DST = -5
postal_code = 62914
area_code = 618
code =
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map_caption = Location of Cairo within Illinois
map_background = Illinois - background map.png map_locator = Illinois2
commons = Cairo, Illinois
statistics =
website =
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Cairo is a city in Alexander County, Illinois in the United States. The population was 3,632 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Alexander County. The city's name is /ˈkeɪɹoʊ/, (Kay-row) pronounced differently from the English name for the capital city of Egypt.

Cairo is located at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Ohio River and is the southernmost town in the state of Illinois. Cairo is one of the few towns in Illinois protected by a levee. The rivers converge at what is the southernmost point in Illinois at Fort Defiance State Park, an American Civil War fort that was commanded by General Ulysses S. Grant.

It is part of the Cape Girardeau–Jackson, MO-IL Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Cairo was founded by the Cairo City & Canal Company in 1837, and incorporated as a city in 1858. For 15 years the town grew slowly, but the sale of lots (commencing in 1853), and the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad, attracted settlers. By 1860, the population exceeded 2,000. It was an important steamboat port in the 19th century, with its own Customs House designed by Alfred B. Mullet, the Supervising Architect during Reconstruction. One of only 7 of his Victorian structures remaining, it has since been converted into a museum.

During the Civil War, Cairo was a strategically important supply base and training center for the Union army. For several months both General Grant and Admiral Foote had headquarters here. The town has numerous fine examples of prosperous 19th and early 20th architecture, including the Italianate "Magnolia Manor" and Second Empire "Riverlore Mansion". Much of the city, even in some areas of decay, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the decline in river trade, like many other river cities, the population of Cairo has declined from a 1920 high of 15,203 to 3,632 in 2000. There is a movement to stop this gradual abandonment, restore Cairo's architectural landmarks, develop tourism focusing on its history, and bring new opportunities back to the community.

Cairo was the scene of the circus-like lynching of the black resident Will James in front of a crowd of hundreds in 1909.

In 1969, Cairo was the site of an intense civil rights struggle to end segregation and create job opportunities at the local McDonald's. The threat of violence resulted in the National Guard being called in to restore order. The United Front civil rights organization led a decade-long boycott of white-owned businesses -- meaning all of them. Its economy crippled, Cairo has emerged slowly from the contention.

The city today faces many significant socio-economic challenges for the remaining population, including poverty, issues in education, employment and rebuilding its tax base. A community clinic offers medical and dental care, and also several mental health services. Cairo’s turbulent history is chronicled on a concept music CD called "Greetings From Cairo, Illinois", released in 2005 by musician Stace England.


Cairo is located at coor dms|37|0|47|N|89|10|49|W|city (37.01, -89.18).GR|1 The elevation above sea level is 315 feet (96 m).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.1 square miles (23.6 km²), including 2.1 square miles (5.4 km²) of water (22.78% of the total area). Cairo is located at the confluence of the Mississippi River and Ohio River.


footnote= [ Decennial US Census]
As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 3,632 people, 1,561 households, and 900 families residing in the city. The population density was 515.1 people per square mile (198.9/km²). There were 1,885 housing units at an average density of 103.2 per km² (267.3 per sq mi). The racial makeup of the city was 35.93% White, 61.70% Black or African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.72% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.36% from other races, and 1.18% from two or more races; 0.74% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,561 households out of which 30.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.3% were married couples living together, 25.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3% were non-families. Of all households, 39.7% are made up of individuals and 17.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 3.08.

The age distribution is 30.4% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 22.0% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there were 79.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 70.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $21,607, and the median income for a family was $28,242. Males had a median income of $28,798 versus $18,125 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,220. Of the population as a whole, 33.5% lives below the poverty line, as compared with 27.1% of families. Out of the total population, 47.0% of those under the age of 18 and 20.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


The city is served by Cairo Unified School District 1. Based on Census estimates, the Cairo school district has the highest percentage in Illinois of children in poverty, 60.6%. It is 15th highest in the United States. [" [,CST-NWS-poorskul10.article If you're poor, you have to work harder... nothing is fair] " "Chicago Sun Times", January 10, 2008]

The district has two elementary schools, Bennett Elementary School and Emerson Elementary School. Middle and high school students attend Cairo Junior/Senior High School.


Cairo's location on a spit of land that lies between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers made multiplexing US 51, 60 and 62 briefly through Illinois more practical than directly connecting Missouri and Kentucky. The result of Cairo's position as a critical highway junction is that Missouri and Kentucky are the only states to border each other with no direct highway connection between them.


Cairo is mentioned in the book "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, and in a song by Josh Ritter called "Monster Ballads." Cairo is also mentioned in the Mark Twain novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".

Notable residents

* Gracia Burnham, missionary
* Chet Covington, baseball player
* Charles Hayes, congressman
* John Healy, baseball player
* Rex Ingram, actor
* Ted Joans, musician, poet and painter
* Margaret Karcher, restaurateur
* Ed Morgan, baseball player
* Tyrone Nesby (AKA rapper T-Nes), basketball player
* Mary J. Safford, schoolteacher and nurse
* George "Harmonica" Smith, musician
* Hudson Strode, author and professor
* Napoleon B. Thistlewood, congressman
* Henry Townsend, musician
* Richard W. Townshend, congressman
* Donne Trotter, politician
* Estelle Yancey, blues vocalist

Cairo had its own minor-league team (variously known as the Egyptians, Champions and Giants) in the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League from 1903-06, 1911-14 and 1922-24.

ites of interest

* Fort Defiance State Park
* [ Gem Theatre]
* "The Hewer", a 1902 public sculpture by George Gray Barnard
* [ Cairo Custom House & Post Office]
* "Magnolia Manor"
* [ "The Riverlore"]
* [ A. B. Safford Memorial Library]

ee also

* List of cities and towns along the Ohio River
* Little Egypt
* Steamboats of the Mississippi
* Illinois in the Civil War
* USS "Cairo"


* [ History of Cairo, Illinois]

External links

* [ Cairo Chamber of Commerce]
* [ - Cairo, Illinois]
* [ Pilot Light 2000 - site by Cairo high School alumni during 1960s]
* [ OERD Special Project/Fort Defiance Park - Southern Illinois University project about Fort Defiance]
* [ Information about Cairo, Illinois]

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