Richard Pryor's Peoria Project

An interactive archive of Richard Pryor’s early life

Our aim is to present an interactive archive of the first two decades of the life of Richard Pryor in Peoria, Illinois.

"Richard Pryor's Peoria" aims to open up the work of a biography for the digital age. Traditionally, biographers have done their research–rooted around in archives, conducted their interviews, and so on–and then streamlined that research to write the story of the person in question.

The site dramatizes, through an array of primary documents, the historical transformation of Peoria from the Midwest's primary "Sin City" into a proudly "All-American City". It folds into that larger story two more personal stories–the struggles of an African-American family both common and exceptional, which made its living in Peoria's red-light district; and the childhood and young adulthood of Richard Pryor, who became one of America's greatest artists and one of its greatest social critics. The roots of his comedy lie in the stories, large and small, of his Peoria.

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Follow the Money Project is affiliated with the Spatial History Project.