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During 1977 and 1978, a small group of neo-Nazis based in Chicago attempted to hold a rally in the Village of Skokie, Illinois. Local officials resisted the group’s efforts by passing a series of ordinances aimed at preventing distribution of hate materials, parading in military costumes, and then obliging parade organizers to obtain an insurance bond before a permit would be issued.
The ordinances were ultimately overturned following a series of state and federal lawsuits because they infringed on the group’s First Amendment rights and the neo-Nazis were issued a permit to demonstrate in Skokie. However, instead of facing the growing number of organized counter-demonstrators, the group held rallies in Federal Plaza and in Marquette Park in Chicago.
The decision to target Skokie was controversial because the Village was home to a large population of Jewish people and many survivors of the Holocaust who were afraid that history was repeating itself. Village officials, citizens of Skokie, community religious leaders, and people from across the United States offered advice on the best way to thwart the impact that a neo-Nazi demonstration would have on the community.
Skokie Public Library's digital collection includes news articles and editorials from local newspapers, recordings from the Skokie Village Board of Trustees meetings, a memoir written by a local clergywoman, correspondence, press releases, and court documents from the time, two documentary films, as well as newspaper coverage of the made-for-television film, Skokie, which broadcast in 1981.
Many of the materials are presented here to tell the story as it unfolded, but more materials can be found if browse the entire collection. For further information, you can find other materials in the library and other resources online. If you have questions, comments, or materials to contribute, send us an email or call us at 847-673-3733.