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Cairo is a city located in Alexander County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 3,632. It is the county seat of Alexander County. The city's name is pronounced differently from the English name for the Egyptian city of the same name: IPA /ˈkeɪɹoʊ/ Cairo.wav. Cairo is located about an hour south of Carbondale, the site of the main campus of Southern Illinois University.
Cairo is located by the juncture of the Mississippi River and the Ohio River; it is the southernmost town in the state of Illinois. The rivers converge at a point at what is the southernmost point in Illinois at Fort Defiance Park , a Civil War fort which was commanded by General Ulysses S. Grant. Cairo was founded as a town in 1818 and incorporated as a city in 1858. Cairo was an important steamboat port in the nineteenth century; it even had its own Customs House which has since been converted into a museum. The town has a number of fine examples of prosperous nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century architecture, much of it abandoned and in a bad state of decay. The population of Cairo has been in decline every decade since the 1920s—in 1920: 15,203; in 1940: 14,407; 1950: 12,123. At the Cairo High School graduation in 1990, the school principal advised the graduating class to leave town, as Cairo had nothing to offer them.
In 1969, Cairo, the only segregated town in the state of Illinois, was the site of an intense civil rights struggle. The threat of violence resulted in the National Guard being called in to restore order. Businesses were also the subject of a boycott organized by the United Front civil rights movement as a form of protest. Despite the eventual desegregation of the town, the racial tension were never truly resolved and the subject is still a source of contention within the town.
Cairo today faces a number of serious issues, including poverty, teenage pregnancy, education, a lack of jobs, and poor access to health services.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 3,632 people, 1,561 households, and 900 families residing in the city. The population density is 198.9 per sq. km (515.1 per sq. mi). There are 1,885 housing units at an average density of 103.2 per km² (267.3 per mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 35.93 percent White, 61.70 percent Black or African American, 0.08 percent Native American, 0.72 percent Asian, 0.03 percent Pacific Islander, 0.36 percent from other races, and 1.18 percent from two or more races; 0.74 percent of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,561 households out of which 30.4 percent have children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.3 percent are married couples living together, 25.2 percent have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3 percent are non-families. Of all households, 39.7 percent are made up of individuals and 17.6 percent have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.26 and the average family size is 3.08.
In the city, the population is spread out, with 30.4 percent under the age of 18, 8.1 percent from 18 to 24, 22.0 percent from 25 to 44, 21.6 percent from 45 to 64, and 17.9 percent 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 79.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 70.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $21,607, and the median income for a family is $28,242. Males have a median income of $28,798 versus $18,125 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,220. Of the population as a whole, 33.5 percent lives below the poverty line, as compared with 27.1 percent of families. Out of the total population, 47.0 percent of those under the age of 18 and 20.9 percent of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
See also: Little Egypt
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