Thank you for visiting the Carbondale Koppers Justice website, and reading our story. Below, please share your feelings about what’s happened and your own stories as well. This site is for healing the wounds of heartbreak and hopelessness from environmental racism.
For years this was a place that we thought was a playground also. Many of us as children will go there to ride their trains illegally to play between the structures that were on the premises. To catch a short train ride up and down that area. Never a warning that this could be a dangerous chemical area
May health and justice prevail!
The Koppers laborers: Many black men in Carbondale, spent the greater part of their work lives as laborers at Koppers Tie Plant in Carbondale, IL. In the past few years, concerns about the sites negative environmental impact on the residence, particularly those in the Northeast section of the city. These concerns have brought about many efforts to address the issue. The history of the Carbondale site as well as efforts to address the environmental problems are outline on the website: carbondalekoppersjustice.com. My grandfather, Shelly Chappell, worked at the plant from early 20’s in the early 1920’s until his retirement in the late 1960’s. I remember the day of this retirement well. My ‘Pop’ came home and actually fell on the floor of the living come and cried. I could not understand why at the time. I remember that he, Mr. Archie Marchell, Versus Smith, Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Robert Matthews and many others hardly ever, if ever, missed a day of work. They were man of honor who not only worked hard and faithfully at their jobs, but also fought for fair treatment for themselves and their fellow workers. Pop served as President for several years of United Mine Workers Union local 12176 for the Carbondale Koppers Plant. Black workers knew in the early 1900s for Blacks migrating from various parts of the south in search of a better life for themselves and their families, that finding a steady job was indeed a blessing. These men honored these ‘blessings’ by demonstrating a dedication to their jobs and employers that has since been unparalleled. Unfortunately, they were repaid their loyalty with poor pay, harsh and even dangerous working conditions and overall disregard for them as being worthy of the decent and fair treatment they were due. Now, this disrespect continues as the harmful environmental conditions caused by the Koppers Plant over the years, and still until now, are being downplayed and even lied about. Kudos to Marilyn Tipton and all who are involved in fighting for justice for all those who have been negatively affected by the toxic chemicals down thru the years from the Koppers site. The monument to honor the workers, the website now under construction, and the planned documentary are truly great and noteworthy efforts and a tribute, I am certain, of which they would be proud.
To those who have worked so hard over the past years to bring to light the injustice done to the community, particularly the Northeast side of Carbondale, by Koppers is to be highly commended. The information on this site, under especially the History tab, is very well developed. May your efforts bring forth the desired results.
This is a much deserved-to-be-told history. I was born in Carbondale and lived near "Moma Cecil and Papa John Brown's home which we called "The Big House." I grew up on Allman Street in my grandmother's house, within two blocks of the tie plant's creosote pool. This pool, I remember, resembled a huge, greasy, oily, mass of black slime. Being so small at the time, it seemed to me like a tiny lake. I would watch our black fathers and grandfathers in the mornings as they walked to the railroad yard and to the Tie Plant and then trudge back home in the evenings, their clothing covered in oil and grease. I, and my best friend, Stank, would spend many of our weekends playing at the round house in the railroad yard proper. Stank lived right next to the rail tracks cutting right through the tie plant grounds. We attacked the railroad yard and the idle trains, climbing onto, inside of, and under the parked railroad cars. The big, empty box cars held a particular fascination for eleven and twelve year old boys. Often we would encounter Hobos hiding out in the cars. We played at the tie plant's creosote pond, often tossing rocks and sticks into the black goo--as energetic, rambunctious boys would do. We dared each other to dip a toe into the sticky mess. Near the creosote were humongous stacks and stacks of railroad ties, soaked through and through with the creosote. While playing on the railroad tracks, we would climb onto the wet railroad ties, getting creosote on our persons in the process. As boys in the 1950s and 60s, we thought nothing about it. I got a glob of creosote on me one time. It irritated my hand. I decided I didn't like it, so I stopped climbing onto the soaked ties, and I stopped venturing too close to the creosote pond. We, nor our parents, had no clue of any dangers that our "playground" held. To us boys, it was simply just, plain old fun.
Thank you for sharing.
This is amazing!
Its never to late to both 'right a wrong' nor 'write about a wrong'...God bless the momentum and originators of this movement.