This African American History Museum offers authentic stories about African-American life in Central Illinois. Located on Monument Avenue, my friend Suzette Starr and I ventured to the Springfield & Central Illinois African American History Museum this past Friday.
I have been meaning to visit this museum for quite a while. I met up with Kevia Malony, the Museum Coordinator at the Oak Ridge Cemetery Walk. Picking up a flier, I decided to make my visit sooner rather than later!
A young man named June showed us around. He provided us with an overview before we immersed ourselves in a walkthrough. The first exhibit we examined was the Middle Passage Exhibit. June asked us if we were familiar with this. We had to admit we were not. We learned that this was a triangular journey. The journey was between Europe, Africa and the America’s. Sadly, the Africa portion was for slave pickup.
In this section there is art from Tom Feelings book offering insight on how slaves were packed into ships. Sharks trailed behind ships because so many died on the journey.
Interactive Slave Ship exhibit
There is an interactive Slave Ship exhibit. This is a very moving exhibit. There is a picture of what I took to be Mother Africa crying for her people. On racks women lie shoulder to shoulder packed on the ships inhumanely together.
Migration of African Americans into Illinois
Many African Americans came to Central Illinois after the Civil War. While you would think that the civil War would have ended discrimination sadly that is not true. I learned that there were 22 racially motivated lynchings between 1891 and 1914 in Illinois. Some of the lynchings were part of the Race Riot that occured in Springfield in 1908!
Not all is bad news about race relations. Abolitionist movements in Illinois was strong.
Later exhibits include African American Women on U.S. Postage Stamps. I love the stories behind these amazing women.
Illinois African American Families were quite interesting learning. I loved seeing the connections. I even recognized one of the women in a picture! We used to work together!
In one exhibit, a Green Book was on display. This reminded me of the movie about the green book. This book listed where African Americans were allowed to stay and eat when traveling. I’m glad today these restrictions no longer exist.
The Michael Bracey Photographic Exhibit was quite interesting. Then for any Illinoisan, the Barak Obama Exhibit brings a certain pride that this president came from our area! The museum is predating the upcoming presidential museum!
My favorite part though I think were quotes from Martin Luther King. The quotes weave faith and working together into his words. Words so needed in today’s reactive climate. One I really loved was “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
This is not a huge museum but allow an hour or two because there is a lot to read. The museum is open Tuesday – Friday from noon to four and Saturday from ten to five. Admission is just a donation.
If you enjoyed this African American History you might also like this story on Canton Mississippi.