"Richard Pryor's Peoria" opens up the genre of biography for the digital age. Traditionally, biographers have done their research—rooted around in archives, conducted their interviews, sleuthed for missing puzzle pieces—and then streamlined that research to write the story of the person in question. Our site is an interactive archive of the first two decades of the life of Richard Pryor in Peoria, Illinois.
The site dramatizes, through an array of over 200 primary documents and a short film, 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.