401 North Washington Street

401 North Washington Street (Click the photo above for an audio tour)

- site of the Black Panther Shootout On November 12, 1970, increasing racial tensions between police and the Black Panther Party erupted into gunfire during a predawn shootout. The standoff lasted nearly three hours, with the university, state, and local police forces firing 778 bullets into an off-campus rental home. The home was rented to university students, some of which were assumed to be affiliated with the Black Panther Party. The National Black Panther Party began in 1966 as a self-defense group, fighting for black civil rights and against police brutality. There were many other police raids on known Black Panther residences around the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s; however, unlike those, this time, three men shot back at the police. Police eventually tear-gassed the house, but it had little effect. Residents shouted at and urged police to let someone in to speak to the men. The battle ended soon after Elbert Simon, Carbondale’s first black postmaster general convinced the police to allow him into the house. After an hour inside, Simon and other community members who had entered later were able to talk the men into surrendering. Three men were arrested and came to be known as “the Carbondale 3.” Five people suffered serious gunshot wounds, including Jesse Russell, who lived across the street, and five other people sustained minor injuries during the gunfight. Nearby homes and cars were left riddled with bullet holes. At the end of their trial in 1971, the “Carbondale 3” were acquitted on all 41 counts. While not a bright spot in Carbondale’s history, it is a reminder of the important civil rights movement taking place across the country in which SIU students and Carbondale residents played an instrumental role.