Illinois History Minutes

March 31 Illinois History Minute


It’s March 31st, and on this day in 1980, the Rock Island line ran its last train, ending more than a century of operations. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad reached its peak in the 1950s.  But its rail network, laid out in the 19th century, could no longer compete with other midwestern railroads.

Black filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles premiered his most influential movie in Detroit on this day in 1971. The Chicago native wrote, directed, financed and starred in his film about Sweet Sweetback, a poor Black man eluding white police authorities. The X-rated “Sweetback” --- we’re not saying the full title on the radio – helped create the blaxploitation movie craze of the 1970s.