Returning Home: The Centennial of the Abbeville Lynching of Anthony Crawford

—By Doria Johnson

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In January of 2008, First Lady Laura Bush designated Abbeville a “Preserve America Community.” This initiative recognizes those communities that demonstrate a commitment to preserving their cultural and natural heritage. After years of denying the African American experience, Abbeville took one bold step towards that identity.

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With seven weeks notice, the community and country joined the Crawford family in honoring the centennial of their banishment, and “Grandpa Crawford’s” lynching in a two-day public history event. This well-attended and publicized affair included a “Freedom School”; a lynching-site soil collection and faith-based consecration service; an unveiling of a cast-iron marker by Bryan Stevenson; and a community-wide scholarship award service. There were roughly three hundred attendees at each event.

Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp noted, “The family of wealthy Black farmer Anthony Crawford just made history again”, harkening back to their role in the apology for lynching by the United States Senate in 2005. This time, they secured funding for the permanent marker at the site of his lynching in Abbeville, South Carolina on the centennial of his death. Many folks in Evanston have a connection to Abbeville, and the 1916 brutal mob lynching of Crawford fueled a large outmigration beyond the chain from Abbeville to Evanston, to all across the United States.

We made history today. No longer can folks walk into government buildings in Abbeville without first encountering Grandpa Crawford. – Doria Johnson

The American South is littered with physical representations of the Confederacy, an increasing controversial issue, especially in light of the 2015 racial terror Charleston shootings by Dylan Roof of eight praying Black church members, and the assassination of their pastor South Carolina State Senator, Clementa Pinckney. Abbeville district AME Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr. said “these killings are the evidence that we are experiencing a new lynching era”.

A few months earlier just up the road in North Charleston, unarmed African American Walter Scott was gunned down by white Officer Michael Slager. Despite video and strong evidence that Officer Slager hunted Scott as if her were a deer, rabbit or turkey, Scott was granted a mistrial, even though Slager can be seen planting a Taser gun on Scott, in front of other officers. Roof was recently convicted and is eligible for the death penalty; he will be sentenced January 17, 2017. From Crawford until now, racial terror is as American as apple pie.

Joining the Crawford family members were the families of Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Emmett Till, as well as students from Kenyon College in Ohio, national and local activists, human rights workers, historians, sociologists and faith leaders. Many people from all walks of life descended on Abbeville to bear witness to the terror and trauma of the survivors of the Crawford lynching.

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Doria Johnson presenting at the Septima Clark Freedom School

On the first day of the event, Friday morning, The Septima Clark Freedom School was opened in the Jefferson Davis Park with undergraduate students from Kenyon College, teachers, activists and Crawford family members leading classes. Later at dusk, the soil collection interdenominational service included clergy from around the country, including Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, Riverside Church; Rev. Dr. Freddy Haynes, Friendship West Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin, World Churches, and Evanston native Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, who wrote the service of sacred memory.

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Doria Johnson with Bryan Stevenson

On Saturday morning, Bryan Stevenson unveiled the marker in front of a large crowd, including many press members and filmmakers. Stevenson not only congratulated the family for their steadfastness, but he also told stories of survival and racial conflict. One story was about a woman who could not enter a Southern courthouse after being terrorized by police dogs during the Black Freedom Movement demonstrations in her childhood in the 1960’s. She had been on Edmond Pettis Bridge in Alabama when police brutally beat marchers and set dogs upon them, and the trauma of those dogs followed her entire life. In front of Stevenson, she finally mustered the courage to attend a trial of an innocent Black neighbor, and declared “We are here!”. Stevenson asked the crowd to chant ‘we are here’ over again to demonstrate to attendees, ‘the region and the nation’ that the victims of lynchings did not disappear and are still affected by the aftermath.

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Doria Johnson holding a jar of soil collected near the site where Anthony Crawford was lynched

In the afternoon, the community gathered at the Crawford family church, 149-year old Cypress Chapel AME Church (which borders the Crawford homestead). Several local teenagers were awarded scholarships by the Equal Justice Initiative, and Crawford family members from around the country spoke about their legacies.

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Dance performed by Gail Hutchison before the unveiling of the marker

Local Evanston residents also participated including Second Baptist Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Michael C.R. Nabors, District 65 teacher Pat Gregory, Museum of Science and Industry/Yoga Instructor Gail Hutchison as well as 98-year old Lois Johnson, who attended as a salute to her dear late friend, Annabelle Frazier, Crawford’s granddaughter and family culture keeper.

Today, the Crawford family has made major strides towards recognition and justice. Just a few weeks later, Abbeville, the “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy” elected its first Black mayor, Santana Freeman. White City Manager Dave Krumwiede, and his assistant Blake Stone, provided critical leadership, ensuring the installation’s realization and also comfort for the family. Krumwiede said it was time for ‘generational change.’ The Crawfords, and the institutional collective, has plans for other actions which should change the lives of the Abbeville community. Program partners “We Say Enough”, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference all contributed significant support ensuring a successful event.

 

Note: All photographs courtesy of Doria Johnson

For more information: 

Dedication of Lynching Marker to Anthony Crawford (Equal Justice Initiative) http://eji.org/news/hundreds-d edicate-lynching-marker-anthon y-crawford-abbeville-south- carolina

The Evil of Lynching Exposed (Huffington Post) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ entry/the-evil-of-lynching-exp osed_us_5802960ae4b0985f6d1571 f7

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The History Behind the UNITY Scholarship and its Founding Members

—By Kimberly Jackson

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Unity Awards program held at First Church of God Christian Life Center, c2014

In 1984, the dream to find a way to recognize the community’s young people in a positive light was put into reality by two friends, C. Louise Brown and Yvonne Davis. Over 30 years later, this legacy is comprised of a unified body of believers and achievers coming together to do something positive for the African American community.

C. Louise Brown, a retired public health director for the city of Evanston, has always been one to pave the way so that others might follow. The first African American to graduate from Michigan State’s School of Nursing went on to earn her master’s degree at UIC in Public Administration. The idea of recognition for African American high achieving students was one that she experienced herself as a teenager growing up in Michigan. Her local church made it one of their missions to do something for its graduating students. The church not only acknowledged their students’ accomplishments but rewarded their success by paying for everything (from tuition to books and more) each semester, for their high school graduates.

Although Brown’s career resulted in her spending the majority of her time as a leader in the field of health administration, a passion for her local community, and students in particular, has always stayed close to her heart. It was only natural that she be one of the founders of a scholarship program.  Brown’s positions of leadership in her local church, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and on numerous community boards throughout the North Shore and Chicagoland area, support her belief that, “Joy is seeing people come behind you that you can mentor.”

The second founding member of UNITY is Yvonne Davis. She earned her undergraduate degree from Fisk University and graduate degree in Education Administration from Northwestern University. Davis is currently a retired school teacher, but her involvement in the community has far from slowed down. Her current and past participation and leadership roles in the field of education, her local church, Delta Sigma Theta, and many other influential programs in the area are examples of how genuine her passion is to make a positive impact on the community. As a young adult, Yvonne Davis’ frustration with all of the negative publicity of African Americans in the media furthered her determination to make a difference. She wanted to come up with a way to show the success and promising future of the African American community.

Together Davis and Brown, decided that one way to do that was to recognize the community’s young people. Thus began the UNITY scholarship program.

After a year, four organizations and one individual clearly saw the importance of UNITY and joined Brown and Davis’ efforts. The first five to do so were the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternal organizations, the NAACP, and Ione S. Brown who integrated her existing Second Baptist Church Memorial Scholarship Program with UNITY.

By the second year, 13 additional organizations participated in UNITY’s support of the African American community’s high achieving students. That same year, the UNITY logo was proposed by Charlene Jones. The organizing committee immediately adopted it as the symbolic identity of the program.

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Since that time, the organizational structure of the program has remained the same in its overall constitution and purpose.  Rotating chairmanship, set meeting structure, and non-disclosure of how much each organization donates in scholarship money each year have added to the overall unity and success of the program. “There are no big I’s and little u’s in this program,” mentioned Yvonne Davis. Currently, close to 20 groups now fall under the umbrella of organizations that support UNITY and over $100,000 in scholarship money is awarded.

The UNITY program has become a tradition and its participants part of a legacy in the African American community. It is comprised of a recognition portion, a presentation of awards, and a time for enjoying the food that families and friends donate for the reception.

What was once a distant vision between friends has become a motivator for today’s black youth, a chance for them to shine in their well-deserved acknowledgement, and an example of what a little unity can accomplish. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners.

 

Note: Article first appeared in the original, printed Shorefront Journal, Vol 6, No 3, 2005, and slightly updated.

Eleanor J. Frazier Moore: Embraced Grace, and Culture

—By Dino Robinson

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Eleanor Frazier at podium, 1969

For eleven years, in a setting of grace, charm, and beauty, the Norshore Twelve, Inc. played host to its annual cotillion to formally present the Debutante’s of the year. This event attracted hundreds, within the African American community in Evanston and on the north shore, to the downtown Chicago Sherman House throughout the 1960s. The yearly anticipated gala would not have taken place if it were not for the tireless efforts of Eleanor J. Frazier.

Not more than a month would pass after the yearly event that Eleanor Frazier would start the frantic process over again. Activities included scheduling, selecting costuming, distributing press releases, determining themes and music, rehearsals and mailing invitations to invite a new set of young women. By that time there was less than nine months left for preparation for the gala evening.

Eleanor, better known to most as “Brownie”, was barely out of college when she first approached the men of the Norshore Twelve during the summer of 1959 and said, “We need to do something for our young ladies like the Deltas and Snakes in Chicago.”

Brownie reflected on her debut through Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at the Emerson Street YMCA. “I did not know what a cotillion was then”. Brownie said, “But I remember Boots Avery, Billie Childs, Camilla Parham Harris, Julia Turner, Beverly Wilson and others and what they taught me in being a lady.” The Deltas then had a program that introduced young ladies into adulthood in a formal process that cumulated with an evening event.

Brownie also referred to the Snakes Cotillion in Chicago. “I remember Rita Robinson and Sissy Butler from Evanston” Brownie said, “They made their debut in the Snakes Cotillion.” The Snakes was, and still is an active African American social organization in Chicago. Brownie, seeing that there was a lack of cultural enrichment programs for African American girls in Evanston, thought that an event similar to the Deltas and the Snakes was something that the men of the Norshore Twelve could undertake. These men felt the same.

Within that same year, Brownie had recruited, organized, trained and counseled a group of young ladies to experience an evening of class, grace, charm and culture, one which at that time was what many parents wanted for their daughters. The culminating event became known as the Norshore Twelve Cotillion. The Cotillion at its height was the most highly anticipated summer event.

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Eleanor Frazier c1990s

Brownie, during the inception of the cotillion, was employed at the Evanston YWCA as the youth program director. A life-long Evanston resident, she attended the local schools and went on to college at Dillard University in Louisiana where she pledged Delta Sigma Theta. Brownie later finished her education at Northeastern Illinois University. “At that time in the 1970s, it was expected that you went to college.” Brownie said.

Brownie married William L. Moore, Ph.D. and moved to Houston, Texas in 1977. There she taught Science and Biology for 26 years. Before her move to Texas, her avocation involved developing and organizing the Norshore cotillion in Evanston. This commitment turned into a yearlong project.

During the 1960s in Chicago, as well as the rest of the United States, was a hostile environment for African American’s, then referred to as “Negro” or “Colored”. Racial segregation, housing restrictions, lynchings, race riots, voting privileges and job restrictions were all elements that, for many in the nation, risked their lives to fight for.

So for an organization of “Negro” men to organize and hold an event in downtown Chicago hotels was nothing short of “impossible” in most African American minds. However, the Norshore Twelve seemed not to be intimidated by these taboos.

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Grand march at the Sherman House

Each July during the years 1960 to 1971, North Shore African American residents looked forward to the organization’s annual event. At its peak, more than 1,400 people packed the grand ballroom. At first, they held the cotillion at the Parkway Ballroom located at 4455 S. King Dr. in Chicago. When they outgrew that venue, they moved the cotillion to the former Sherman House at Clark and Randolph in downtown Chicago.

“I don’t know how we got into the Sherman House.” Byron said, “I guess through our various inquires, the Sherman House was the only one that responded.” Various people were instrumental in preparing the cotillion including Mr. Rickman who headed marketing; Mr. Holland was the Maitré d and Mr. Benny Price at the Foster Center (Fleetwood-Jourdain Center). “Without him there wouldn’t be a cotillion.” Brownie said, “He was the head custodian there. That is where we had our rehearsals. We would start around seven in the evening and not leave until past midnight.”

… She instilled in us to always strive toward perfection

“The idea behind the cotillion was to bring cultural enrichment to the young ladies.” Brownie said, “I felt as though the young ladies were being short-changed in not having such an program and event.” Participation in the cotillion was an experience that lasted nine months.

“The cycle began in July. Letters were sent to African American high school senior parents, inviting their daughter to participate in the cotillion.” Brownie describes, “Invitations an afternoon soireé were sent in October. November was the formal tea for prospective debutants. Once accepted, the young ladies were required to attend weekly meetings.” During the meetings, the ladies were instructed in posture, dance, dress fittings, make-up techniques, rehearsals, and culture etiquette.” Additional preparation included monitoring their school GPA, applications to college and their eventual acceptance letters to college. “The major expectation for participating in the cotillion was matriculation into college,” Brownie said.

Brownie utilized her time and Norshore Twelve’s money in preparation. She hired choreographers such as Michael Frederics from Gus Giordano dance studio; photographers from Zeloof-Stuart Photography Studios and caterers. For musical entertainment, the Willie Randall band was frequently used. “Brownie ran it all.” Byron Wilson said, a Norshore Twelve charter member. “Whatever she needed, she got it, no matter the cost. The men played a low-key role. Aside from finances, it was Brownie who ran the program.”

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1964 prospectives meeting at the home of Robert Cobb.

“Brownie was a very exceptional person,” Gwen Burton Poole said, a 1961 debutant, “She has this gift, a talent in organizing the girls and the event… and the patience she had during that time… She instilled in us to always strive toward perfection.”

In addition to the meetings, the participants had to solicit ads, hold fundraisers and seek sponsorships to defray the cost of the souvenir book. Parents were involved as sponsors and were required to host at least one social event at their home. Occasionally, a member of the Norshore Twelve would step in to serve as an escort or as a surrogate father.

All participants wore white ball gowns; a simple string of pearls with matching single-pearl earrings and 16 button kid or cloth gloves. Debutants selected their escorts for the evening gala. The escorts wore identical summer wear including top hats and sometimes canes for the debs and escorts dance. All of their efforts and a years worth of meetings were in preparation for the cotillion. Debutants, their parents and a showing from the Evanston community stepped out in high fashion for the evening.

“This was an opportunity to be with girls that we grew up with. This was the late time we may be together for a while, to do something meaningful.” Colette Hill-Duncan said, a 1967 Debutant. “I grew up a Norshore Twelve kid. This was something to look forward to.”

The Cotillion evening was a gala that involved a grand entrance of all the attendees. Following were the announced entrance of each debutant escorted by their father or a Norshore Twelve member. Following dinner and live music came the well-rehearsed and choreographed performances by the debutants and their young escorts as individual groups of ladies and gentlemen, then as couples.

“This was the social event of Evanston,” said Brownie, “School superintendents, government officials, the crème of the crop, all came out.” “And a lot of Whites would attend as well,” Byron said. “Write-ups would appear in the Evanston Review, The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Defender.”

The Norshore Twelve Cotillion began July 1960 and through July 1971

Each year, the cotillion was identified by a theme. The earlier ones took on names off of classical music scores or stage plays. Later they were more thematic with choreographed performances that related to them. Some theme names included “Jour de Romain”, “The King and I”, “Black and Beautiful – Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Mod-Mad-Mardi Gras”. “The best year was the Black and Tan Fantasy in 1969.” Brownie said, “We utilized the music of Duke Ellington.” Byron agreed.

As the popularity of the Cotillion grew, they outgrew the space provided at the Parkway Ballroom. “One night, there were so many people dancing and enjoying themselves, the floors bounced.” Byron said. After the cotillion event, after parties took place in the penthouses. The penthouse rooms at the Sherman House were rented out by members of the Norshore Twelve or by parents of the debutants.

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1969 Debutantes at the home of landscaper Tennis Saunders. Photo by Zeloof-Stuart Photography

“After the cotillion, my father rented a suite after the cotillion.” Sarah Ashmore Diggs recalls, a 1969 debutant “After an amazing day and evening of being treated like a princess at the Sherman House, my friend and I wanted to sneak off to one of the penthouse parties. To my surprise, it was my father who was throwing that party!”

As the 1970s rolled around, times were changing. The rising movement of “I’m Black and I’m Proud” cued a new generation of African Americans to take a new look at its culture and social standing. It was becoming more and more difficult to find young ladies wanting to participate in the cotillion. “The younger generation was loosing interest in it. The parents liked it. But this trend was happening with our other organizations as well.” Byron said. During this time, the cotillion may have been perceived as assimilation by the younger generation. Between 1960 and 1969, the number of participants averaged 15 in the cotillion. In 1970, ten participated and the last cotillion in 1971, only eight took their bows.

The last cotillion spelled the end of the annual gala. Participation was met with animosity. “Things were just getting bad.” Byron said.

“The girls stopped cooperating.” Brownie said, “So I finally had to say, “I’m through!”

“And when Brownie said that, that was the end of the cotillion.” Byron finished. Most participants had no understanding of the time, planning, energy, arrangement or the money that was involved in preparing the evening’s gala event.

The cotillion may have lived out its cycle with the new generation new sense of cultural pride, ideas and direction, at least in the north. “The Links, for example, still have cotillions in the south today.” Brownie said, “I would like to see something like the cotillion come back… not seen as an assimilation, but to enforce that we [too] have a culture.”

The Norshore Twelve Cotillion began July 1960 and through July 1971. The preparation involved many dedicated businesses, parents, volunteers and the community. However, the event was pulled together by the tireless efforts of Brownie Frazier. During its existence, more than 150 young women had experienced the training process that cumulated in an evening of grace, charm and beauty that became known as “The Cotillion”. Many of these participants still have fond memories of the Norshore Twelve annual cotillion.

“The warmest feeling was that my family participated in the entire process.” Sarah reflected, “The whole community supported us.”

 

Note: This article first appeared in the original quarterly Shorefront Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, winter 2006 issue. All images courtesy Eleanor Frazier and located in the Shorefront archives.

Shorefront update #009

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The Justice For Peace exhibit at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center

The board and volunteers of Shorefront has had a busy schedule since our last update summer of 2015. New acquisitions, interns, exhibitions, avocation and recognition have all taken place over that time period cumulating into a very busy 12 months. We even did some light renovation to the Legacy Center and was a feature on Channel 9 during the Evanston Black Business Tour organized by the owners of Yo’ Fresh Frozen Yogurt. If you have not been by, you should visit.

As an active collecting repository, donations to Shorefront’s archives have grown. New items acquired come from individuals and organizations and include Ebenezer A.M.E., Opal, the ETHS Black Male and Black Female Summit, example pieces from local artists, Evanston Neighborhood Conference, The Triangle Club, Community Hospital, Foster / Lab Experimental School, Evanston Own It and dozens of smaller items. Many of these new items will be incorporated into current collections.

Throughout the months, Shorefront has been engaged with community outreach through lectures and discussions. Founder Dino Robinson participated in discussions on and about local history at Leadership Evanston, the Evanston Public Library and at the Black History Month Kick-off at Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center. There, Evanston Mayor Tisdahl presented the organizers with a proclamation recognizing Black History Month events, now on display at the Legacy Center. Dino also spoke at the Digital Archives Panel at the University of Michigan in April and will speak in October this year at UCLA on and about community archives.

All sessions_FlyerIn partnership with the Evanston Chapter NAACP, The African American History and Genealogy Consortium and the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, three community wide panel discussions were shared at the 4th Annual Black History Lecture Series event. Held on three consecutive Saturdays, scholars and community members shared their knowledge. All three sessions were filmed and archived at Shorefront.

Session one was on Pan-Africanism and the local island communities. Local panelists, Jude Laude, Sharon Staine and Bob Parris gave presentations on the Haitian, Belizean and Jamaican presence on the North Shore. Dr. Anna Castillo gave an informative presentation on early South and Central America early presidents, governors and leaders of African decent.

Session two focused on legislature that has an impact on community and police relations. Panelists were Margaret Stapleton of the Shriver Center, Patrick Keenan-Devlin of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy and Shyriden Carmichael of the Cabrini Green Legal Aid.

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Session three of the lecture series

Session three focused on the theme of “telling your story”. Panelist were Gwen Rucker on the Mormons work in Genealogy, Arthur Amaker on the Maroons in American, Kim Chase on historical Black towns and Ayinde Jean-Baptists on Haiti.

Mid 2015, Shorefront introduced a new traveling exhibit series entitled “Legacies”. The growing, multi-panel focuses a snapshot of historic and contemporary residents and organizations throughout the North Shore. The first set of five panels was unveiled at the One State Conference organized by the Illinois Arts Alliance. The panels were also shown at the Justice For Peace exhibit at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and at the 2016 Black History Month Kick-off event at the Fleetwood Jourdain Center. Plans on introducing additional panels to add to the exhibit will be ready by end of year.

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Mid July, Shorefront partnered with the Foster/Lab Experimental School Kindergarten 50th Reunion committee. The event attracted over 60 people – former students, teachers, administrators and community activists. Breaking the norm of reunions, this gathering focused on two themed panel discussions; We Were There and Where Are We Now? in reflection of the times when Evanston was beginning its school integration processes and evaluating what has changed today. In addition to the panels, Shorefront interviewed 15 former kindergarten students and administrators on their experience in the beginning of King Lab school. The resulting interviews is slated to be incorporated into the 1967 film by Larry Brooks, The Integration of Foster School for a 2017 release.

Shorefront is excited to be a recipient of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), “Museum Grants for African American History and Culture” and as a collaborating partner with the “National Leadership Grants for Libraries”. The first award furthers Shorefronts work to grow a focused collection on the Jamaican and Haitian communities, expand its board, solidify partnerships and produce a collection of publications.

The second collaborative grant involves The Amistad Research Center, the South Asian American Digital Archive, Mukurtu, and the Inland Empire Memories Project of the University of California-Riverside for a series of forums focused on integrating community archives in the National Digital Platform. The January 2017 forum is slated to be held in Evanston, hosted by Shorefront.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. The grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit http://www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.

Lastly, Shorefront is intentional in encouraging families and organizations to consider donating items to local repositories and supporting efforts in creating archives. Over the years, Shorefront’s work helped grow its archives and encouraged other families and entities to do the same. Two organizations, the North Shore Ushers Guild and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association has consulted with Shorefront while they work in preserving their own rich history.

Shorefront and its activities is supported by membership, contributions and grant support. Shorefront is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit historical organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and educating people about Black history on Chicago’s suburban North Shore. It is publicly supported through grants, contributions and membership. The Legacy Center is open to the public for research initiatives.

An Unassuming Place: My Internship Experience at the Shorefront Legacy Center

— By Nicole Gibby Munguia

Pyramid Club members on one of their many outings, 1982
Pyramid Club members on one of their many outings, 1982

I can’t recall just what I expected to happen when I, an LIS graduate student with no prior archival experience (and admittedly, a vivid imagination), walked inside the Shorefront Legacy Center: the sound of the heavens opening? Angelic choirs singing the Hallelujah Chorus and precious collections bathed in rays of sunlight? Granted, the Center is located on the lower level of the Sherman United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois, and I do tend to view archives as somewhat wondrous places containing fascinating history; however, I discovered that the wonder I anticipated was actually to be found within the collection of materials that I processed this semester.

Almost three years ago when I started down the path toward earning my MLIS, I was utterly convinced that my career would focus on knowledge management (KM). But the Shorefront Legacy Center and my internship experience have since broadened my perspective and given me a stronger sense of where my interests and strengths might actually lie. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to realize that I may have found that ever elusive “fit” and sense of belonging that I’ve sought within this professional community to which I’m drawn.

Founded in 1974 and active until 2009

One of the first tasks was to select a collection as a focus for my internship. One might think it’s as simple as choosing which collection presents the most interesting topical matter, or accepting the challenge of diving into the most complex collection. I can state for the record that as an anxious perfectionist, and one without archival experience at that, the choice was a bit more fraught, shall we say. I’ll spare you my torturous inner dialogue and quickly confess that I selected The Pyramid Social and Civic Club Collection. Founded in 1974 and active until 2009, the Pyramid Social and Civic Club hosted civic events for community members such as its salad luncheon, holiday dinner for the residents of the Ebenezer Primm Towers, and Spring Fling Dinner. And during its 35-year existence, Club members enjoyed annual social events such as bus tours and cruises to exotic locales.

Samples of programs and events
Samples of programs and events

I began by unpacking and inventorying the collection materials, marveling at how 35 years’ worth of memories could be contained so neatly in one box. Four photo albums, some loose photos, and a manila folder. I would be responsible for organizing this content, making it accessible to future researchers, and ensuring that it represented the history of this club in a way befitting its legacy.

Over the next several weeks, I worked my way through the box, emptying one album at a time, carefully peeling back the plastic covers from the photos that were stuck to photo album sheets; sorting each club event’s memorabilia into its own pile on the processing table. In quiet moments, I gradually began to notice how the shape of the collection wasn’t the only thing shifting – I was changing too. I began to view the Center as a refuge. I would enter, feeling more energetic than I had in days, excited and ready to take on a day’s new work. My body would automatically sigh with relief as I shook off the layers of the previous week’s stress, and my mind would clear as I began to work through the list of tasks before me, mapping out next steps.

The Pyramid Club. . . decades of close friendship and laughter

1978 Luncheon Program
1978 Luncheon Program

One evening, I began processing the fourth and final photo album of materials. Within its pages, I noticed the funeral program for one of the members. As I continued disassembling the contents of the album, I discovered another program, and another, and another, until it occurred to me that this was the album – the album containing funeral programs and death notices for all of the club members. I remember feeling unusually emotional, trying to surreptitiously wipe away tears. I found it difficult to reconcile how much loss I felt at the passing of women I didn’t even know, feeling inexplicably as though I’d somehow lost dear friends. In processing this collection, this history of friendships spanning 35 years, I found that faces had become familiar to me, naming those in photos became second nature, and smiles had stayed the same throughout the decades.

Was I grieving the loss of these women, or was it tinged with something more? Was I affected by the impending end of both my internship and the processing this collection? Do all archivists experience this level of emotional attachment to a particular collection at some point during their career? Am I a singular hopeless case because of my sappiness? I’d like to think that my sensitivity bodes well for a future as a particularly intuitive and intentional archivist; on the other hand, chances are equally high that I may just make a lousy archivist because I’d quickly become known as “the woman who cries every time she processes pictures of people”!

Final archival boxes before labeling
Final archival boxes before labeling

I spent the last two weeks of my internship labeling folders carefully and consistently, filing materials in corresponding folders, and storing items in their storage cases. With each folder I completed, I found myself gaining closure, both in processing the Club’s collection, and in completing my internship. I felt that I’d evolved somewhat during my experience – learning a bit more about my professional capacities, about the rich social and civic history of Evanston, and of the enduring legacy of friendships that, if we’re lucky, we might all have the chance to experience.

I am grateful to the members of The Pyramid Club for allowing me a glimpse into their decades of close friendship and laughter, and for the honor of being able to process their collection as my very first archival opportunity. And I remain grateful to the Shorefront Legacy Center for providing a refuge, for allowing me to identify and experience another skillset that I possess, and for not only serving as a keeper of North Shore history, but also for playing an important role in mine.

Shorefront 2015: Continued Advocacy for Community Archives

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Reading room at the Shorefront Legacy Center

— By Shorefront Staff

2015 has been a busy year for Shorefront as we have settled into our new home in the lower level of Sherman United Methodist Church, and there are a few more months left in the year. During the year, we have continued to create an inviting facility for visitors, researchers, room for a growing archive, forged new partnerships and received local and national recognitions.

IMG_0447The Society of American Archivists recognized Shorefront with the 2015 Diversity Award for outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archives profession, SAA, or the archival record. Shorefront was also the recipient of the 2015 Award of Excellence from the Illinois Association of Museums for our work with the Shorefront Journal.

For the last six years, Shorefront has continued its involvement with the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) and as a model “second space” organization for others entities to pattern. Shorefront founder, Dino Robinson, was a keynote presenter at the BMRC 10th Anniversary reception that was held on October 15, 2015. BMRC Fellow, Megan Klein, spent two months at the Legacy Center while working on her research on and about housing patterns and its ties with segregating a school system in Evanston, Illinois. Her work is on-going.

IMG_0456Shorefront also facilitated an intern from Dominican University. Nicole Gibby Munguia fulfilled a 40 hour internship in the last quarter of the year that will result in at least one processed project and one article for publication in Shorefront Journal.

Shorefront’s library of books have been cataloged with the Evanston Public Library in WorldCat and is now searchable. This completes a short-term goal to have our holdings of over 500 titles incorporated with a national and standardized library cataloging service. In addition, Shorefront assisted the City of Evanston in reestablishing the Fleetwood Jourdain Art Guild’s collection for permanent display at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center in Evanston.

For the third year, Shorefront, in partnership with Evanston chapter N.A.A.C.P., the African American Genealogy Consortium, and The Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti, hosted two consecutive lectures that facilitated discussion involving “Black Lives Matter” and “The History of Black Entrepreneurship”. The second lectured launched a Shorefront led presentation on the history of Black-owned businesses in Evanston that was presented at various public gatherings and the installation of a wall exhibit at a newly opened community center.

IMG_0457
“Legacies” exhibit at the A Bright Night For the Arts event

Shorefront prepared a new traveling exhibit entitled “Legacies”, consisting of several oversized panels showcasing people and organizations. The first series of panels were displayed during the One State conference, a program of the Illinois Arts Alliance and at the A Bright Night For the Arts event. The exhibit will continue to grow and travel to various schools, libraries and other venues.

Shorefront’s resident scholar, Doria Johnson, completed a recent fellow at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem New York for a exhibit entitled “Black Suburbia” through end of 2015. Evanston is one of the featured “suburbs” with a large and historic Black community.

Shorefront’s work in launching its publishing arm, utilizing its growing archives as primary sources has grown. Shorefront has identified 15 potential titles, three of which is a three volume series by Spencer Jourdain entitled Dream Dancers that follows the legacies of two families and their eventual migration to Evanston. The reissue of A Place We Can Call Our Home has been widely accepted and several schools have purchased copies for both the student body and teachers. Look for more during the 2016 year.

The online Shorefront Journal has been live since August 2012. To date, the journal has had over 30,000 visits with over 70 posts. In addition, there are three printed annuals available for purchase that combine the articles for that year. The Online and printed journals were recognized by the Illinois Association of Museums with the 2015 Award of Excellence for printed materials.

IMG_0360In 2014, we reported a 50% growth of our archives to a little over 100 linear feet. Since then, the holdings have grown to over 175 linear feet— and it is still growing. New collections include the Evanston Neighborhood Conference, North Shore Chapter Jack and Jill, Inc., a significant addition to the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Delta Alpha Boulé and North Shore Illinois Chapter of the Links, Inc. archives, and several family archives.

IMG_0402Shorefront owes thanks to Robin Simmons of Signature Construction Services for remodeling work done in the Legacy Center that has added over 300 square feet of storage and public space to accommodate new archives. We also would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, Megan Klein, Fran Joy and Toni for furniture file cabinets and artwork that has enhanced the centers work space.

Shorefront has always been a strong advocate for groups with a passion in archiving subject specific items. Earlier in the year, Shorefront partnered with the Modern Dance Music Archives and Research Foundation, providing guidance and space while housing their archives at Shorefront. The organizations focus is on the history of the Chicago House Music Scene with a focus on the work of pioneering DJs and clubs.

Our outreach includes participation in the Chicago Open Archives multi-day events where archivists tour different Chicago area repositories and for school and summer camp tours. Our social media presence continues to capture a growing audience on Facebook, Twitter the online journal and our redesigned website.

Shorefront is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit historical organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and educating people about Black history on Chicago’s suburban North Shore. It is publicly supported through grants, contributions and membership. The Legacy Center is open to the public for research initiatives.

The Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild

— Original article by Mamie Smith-Faust

Political Legacy. Artwork by Jan Spivey Gilchrest
Political Legacy. Artwork by Jan Spivey Gilchrest

For 25 years, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild had gifted the Evanston community with a collection of artwork by local and regional artist. Selections of the 32 pieces will be on display at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center in its newly renovated gallery.

The idea for the Art Guild was inspired in 1987. That year, at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. community birthday celebration, a community organization called C.H.O.I.C.E./Student Action Council donated an enlarged, framed photograph of the Salem to Montgomery Civil Rights March. The community responded overwhelmingly with pride and appreciation.

The Art Guild has collected over 30 pieces of art

Later that year, the Foster Senior Club donated a picture entitled “Mother and Child” by Margaret Burroughs, the founder of Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History. Soon after, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Advisory Board presented an oil painting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled “The Study”, created by Evanston artist, A. Terrell.

In March 1987, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Advisory Board established a standing committee for the arts. It consisted of community members with an interest in expanding the visual arts program at the Center. It was the Advisory Board’s vision of a permanent exhibit space that sparked the idea of converting the Center’s second level, which was then a poolroom, into a gallery and library. Funding for renovations was obtained from a City of Evanston Community Development Block Grant.

With a commitment to create and preserve the history of Black Evanston through the arts, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild was incorporated and on December 13, 1987, the Art Guild received its 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status. This vision was the “brainchild” of the Public Arts Movement in Evanston.

Members of the Art Guild receiving a Check from the Ludacris Foundation
Members of the Art Guild receiving a Check from the Ludacris Foundation. Photo courtesy of Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild

In 2004 the Art Guild sponsored the “Children of Uganda” for the Evanston community through a major grant from the Ludacris Foundation. The Children of Uganda is a performance group that uses traditional dance and drumming in supporting the fight of HIV and AIDS.

The Art Guild has been instrumental in the conservation, preservation and documentation of Evanston Black history through the creation of a museum and gallery. Commissioned and donated works of art were displayed at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center and later at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, bringing to fruition the goal of a permanent exhibition space illustrating the Black Experience.

The Guild is a past recipient of the Mayor’s Award for the Arts. On March 6, 2012, The City of Evanston passed a resolution honoring the Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild, designating room 2200 in the Lorrain H. Morton Civic Center the “Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild Meeting Room”. The room officially opened on March 24, 2012.

Mamie Smith, Val Summers and Lorraine H. Morton
Mamie Smith, Val Summers and Lorraine H. Morton. photo courtesy City of Evanston.

Though the committee formally dissolved in 2012, the work of the Art Guild was made possible by the following members who have been instrumental in bringing this unique collection to the Evanston Community: (1997 committee) Mamie Smith-Faust, Founder, Patricia A Vance, President, Val Summers, Vice President, Laura Hayes, Secretary, Bettye J. Palmer, Treasurer, Carol Wharton, Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Faust, Exhibit Coordinator, Jane Colleton, Allen (Bo) Price, Pauline Williams, and honorary members, Lorraine H. Morton, Don Colleton and Earlene Fleetwood.

On June 21, 2015, The Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild collection will be rededicated in a newly renovated common area on the second floor of the Lorrain H. Morton Civic Center.

 

Note: Article updated by Patricia A. Vance, former president of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Art Guild

Allen “Bo” Price: Shaping Evanston Youth

—By Carlis Sutton

Allen "Bo" Price
Allen “Bo” Price

Anywhere you go on the West Side of Evanston and mention “Bo” Price, there will be an immediate response: “He’s the man!” In Bo’s brief eighty-six years of living in Evanston and over sixty years of working with young people, Allen “Bo” Price has had an indelible impact on our community.

Interviewing a living legend is slightly intimidating, but a conversation with Bo Price is both a lesson in Evanston and American history as well as an experience in witnessing overwhelming personal strength tempered with humility.

Bo’s sense of humor puts you at ease. Watching him polishing his favorite horn, a coronet, the instrument he uses in his all-girl drum and bugle corps, to a gleaming stainless steel gives you an opportunity to observe both his demeanor and thoroughness. Bo cautiously chooses his words and responds introspectively to probing personal questions, demonstrating his compassion while perceptively protecting his privacy.

He has a remarkable memory and recalls incidents and individuals from his past as though they occurred yesterday, and recounts a wealth of individuals who have influenced his life. While attending Foster School, Bo was greatly influenced by his physical education instructor, Mr. Boyer. Mr. Boyer had been a captain in the army and was the only black on the staff. Mr. Boyer’s philosophy of “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins” became Bo’s mantra.

Allen “Bo” Price was born in Evanston, Illinois, on July 1, 1922, the youngest of seven boys and the tenth of eleven children, who included three older and one younger sister. He is the sole survivor in his family.

His father, Squire Price, migrated to Evanston from Tennessee, and his mother, Gertrude Bell, came from Virginia. They married in Evanston in 1900. His father died in 1925; his mother lived to be eighty-four.

Bo’s family first lived on Elmwood Avenue near Lake Street, then moved to the 1700 block of Lyons, east of Darrow, where they were living when Bo started to school at Foster School. Foster School was integrated then, and Bo went there from kindergarten through eighth grade. Mr. Boyer, the Foster School gym teacher, was also employed at Foster Field across the street from the school. It was on the playground that Bo acquired an early interest in sports, and he participated in all sports at Foster Field: softball, football, and ice skating.

Price worked as a cobbler at a nearby shoe shop
Price worked as a cobbler at a nearby shoe shop

After completing eighth grade, Bo attended Washburn Trade Institute in Chicago, where an older sister was also going. He was planning to be a cobbler. Washburn Institute is now Dunbar Vocational High School on Chicago’s South Side. When I inquired why he went to Chicago for high school when there was one right here in Evanston he replied, “Because there were better opportunities for blacks at Washburn than those available at Evanston Township High School.” In fact, he related how many black families sent their children to boarding schools in other states to avoid the racism of Evanston High. The policy in effect at Evanston Township High School at that time allowed only one black athlete on the field at a time.

However, there were ample opportunities for blacks at Foster Field, with its organized competitive teams in both football and baseball. Their reputation for performance brought scouts from black colleges to recruit athletes at Foster Field. During this time the park captured all the city championships between the other parks, mainly Boltwood (Crown) and Chandler Parks.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress declared war on Germany and Japan. Many young Evanston black men were drafted, including Bo and his six brothers; they served in the army, all seven at the same time. After being inducted at Fort Sheridan, Bo received basic training at Fort Custer in Michigan, then Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The military was segregated, so many blacks, including Bo, were trained to be quartermasters, whose primary responsibility was keeping the all-white infantry supplied. Little did Bo know that the skills acquired at this time would be instrumental in preparing thousands of young black soldiers to return to civilian life. In the military Bo acquired the discipline and determination that would be the foundations for his future success in training youngsters. He remembers the trains segregated by race for troops being sent to fight the same war. Eventually Bo arrived in Hampton, Virginia, where he boarded the Queen Elizabeth I cruise liner turned troop transport ship to sail with 20,000 other soldiers headed for the battlefields of Europe. The trans-Atlantic crossing took five days. They sailed unescorted, hoping to avoid the German U-boats (submarines). They traveled northeast near Iceland, a circuitous route, and landed in Glasgow, Scotland.

Immediately the quartermasters started stockpiling supplies for the invasion of France. While in Great Britain, Bo visited English cities, including Liverpool and London. The black soldiers could go into town only on alternate days when the white soldiers weren’t furloughed. Since all the officers were white, one remarked that if his grandmother knew that he was giving passes to black men to go date white women she would turn over in her grave. One of Bo’s buddies received his pass and commented to the white officer, “Spin, Granny, spin.” Bo remembers the German bombing raids on London, where they had to live in the subways.

The invasion of Europe began on D-Day June 6, 1944. The casualties were enormous, and Bo’s unit, the Fifth Infantry, had to encamp in Bivouac for several months.

Bo saw action in Belgium and eventually in the Battle of the Bulge, from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945. He was injured by shrapnel and medically evacuated. White boys with similar injuries were returned to the States, Bo was returned to the front lines. Since the casualties were so high, members of the quartermaster corps were given a two-week crash course and sent to the front beside the white infantry. The army was unofficially integrated. However, upon return, the blacks who served as infantrymen were remanded to their quartermaster positions before returning to the States.

The white infantry were awarded the Presidential Commendation for their services in the Battle of the Bulge; the black quartermasters were not given any official recognition until after World War II, when they were decorated by the French government with La Croix de Guerre, or the Legion of Honor. While serving in Europe, Sergeant Bo Price had the opportunity to occasionally encounter other black Evanstonians, and he ran into one of his brothers upon his departure from Marseilles, France, to return to the States.

Bo Price was discharged from the armed services in 1946 at Fort Sheridan and returned to Evanston. He held several jobs before securing employment with the state of Illinois. He continued his athletic activities by joining the Foster Field Evanston Rams in 1947. The team was coached by William Johnson.

Price leading a housing protest march c1960s
Price leading a housing protest march c1960s

One day he went to Jody Clay, a black Evanston shoe repairman, to have his uniform altered. Clay offered to repair the uniform for free if Bo would join the Snell Post of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). There had been a previous black chapter of the American Legion here in Evanston, but several veterans had organized a new chapter named for the first black Evanstonian killed in World War II, William Snell. The previous American Legion had a drill team, and the members of the new organization were interested in organizing another team. It was felt that Bo, due to his young age, would be able to identify better with the young men who would specialize in precision drill and rifle handling. Bo started with several young men, including Charles Thomas, Paul Wilson, Edwin Jourdain III, William Dawson, and Chris Gilbert. Bo inculcated his high expectations in these drill team members and emphasized self-discipline. They accepted his challenge and soon became famous throughout the state.

The Vanguards drill team
The Vanguards drill team

The legacy of excellence was forged. First called the VFW Drill Team, their name became recognized for the group’s expertise and they performed at halftime at the Chicago Cardinals National Football League and halftime at the Chicago Stadium for the Harlem Globetrotters. The name of the drill team changed to the Gay Blades Drum and Bugle Corps in 1969.

In 1978, the name changed to The Pride of Evanston Drum and Bugle Corps. Bo’s drill team integrated the Evanston Fourth of July Parade down Central Street and became the first black championship drill team in Ilinois, therefore breaking down barriers in Evanston, Chicago, and Springfield. Evanston Mayor John R. Kimbark (1953–1962) stated, “If the drill team can’t march in the Fourth of July parade, then there won’t be any parade.” This legacy of excellence continued and Bo won his first national championship in Miami, Florida, in 1957.

The rise from our community at Foster Field to national prominence was accomplished through a combination of community support, wealthy Evanstonians, masterly training, practice, mentoring, and illustrious and innovative motivation emphasizing high self-esteem.

Bo’s most ardent supporter from the community was Ms. Fanny Lazar, the owner of the famous Fanny’s Restaurant. Ms. Lazar sponsored Bo’s only birthday party at Fleetwood/Jourdain.

Bo’s recollection of that first national championship was mostly of the support of the parents and participation by so many high-achieving young people. The majority of that championship group attended and graduated from college, producing principals, certified public accountants, schoolteachers, business people, and attorneys who returned and contributed to our community.

This significant contribution, the first national championship of a black drill team group, has been immortalized by a sculpture in the foyer of Fleetwood/Jourdain Community Center.

Bo has similarly been recognized by the naming of a street (Foster Street from Darrow to Ashland) in his honor. Only three other individuals have received this recognition in our community; it is a small but significant tribute to an individual who has contributed so much and who mastered the art of training, mentoring, and motivating young people. Bo continued in this effort by sponsoring a girl’s drum and bugle corps and color guard. Some participants are the grandchildren of his famous “57” unit.

Mr. Price and neighborhood Brownies
Mr. Price and neighborhood Brownies

What is Bo Price’s response to the current plight of our community? He summarizes in one word: “parenting.” Most Evanstonians are experiencing the fallout of second- and third-generation single teen parenting. At a recent workshop that Bo attended, sponsored by Neighbors at Work, he emphasized that the most important years for establishing learning skills are the formative years, one to three years old. By that time a child has established his learning processes for the rest of his life.

What we need now are parenting classes for our young people who are parents. Says Bo, “It is frustrating to observe all the accomplishments that my generation made and to see young people not taking advantage of the opportunities in our community.”

The loss of our neighborhood school has been a major reason for the breakdown in our community today.

Let’s hope that this is the last generation in Evanston to experience a wandering in the wilderness for forty years like the Jews who were liberated from Egypt. Like Moses and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bo has shown us the Promised Land and the only thing left is for us to take possession of the land.

 

Note: This article was originally written for Shorefront on March 8, 2004. The article has been slightly revised to take into account dates and some tenses. Allen “Bo” Price passed away May 1, 2009—one month before his birthday—after a sustained fight with lung and heart disease. The article originaly appeard in the printed quarter Shorefront Journal, Volume 9, No. 1, 2009. Photo of Price as a cobbler ©1998 courtesy of Marina Samovsky/marinaphoto.com. Photo of Price marching by Charles Johnson

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Discrimination and Housing on the North Shore

—By Dino Robinson

Dr. King at a press conference at the Orrington Hotel, October 1962.
Dr. King at a press conference at the Orrington Hotel, October 1962.

Throughout the Chicago Suburban North Shore, like most of this country, communities are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and remembering the many accomplishments, messages and influence he has had that continue to this day. Many cities became known as an epicenter for societal changes, influenced by Dr. King’s, and related organizations, message of equality, fairness and advocacy for fair housing.

Chicago’s suburban North Shore became an epicenter around fair housing, though its struggle for equality, equity and housing began as early as 1910. A 1913 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune contained an article where Wilmette residents wanted to find out what realtor(s) were selling homes to “Negroes” and how to stop the process:

“Wilmette Takes Trail of Negroes: Village Residents Call Meeting Saturday Night To Discuss ‘Invasion’ ”.1

Local community members who challenged Evanston’s growing support of Jim Crow led to the formation of an early chapter of the NAACP c1919. Later, its city’s first Black alderman, Edwin B. Jourdain Jr., questioned housing policies and made headlines in the Chicago Defender:

Hat-in-hand Group in Evanston Would Bar Race
“A step to bar any more Race people from Evanston was temporarily blocked Sunday Afternoon, after Citizens, at an interracial meeting had been asked to adopt a resolution to stop more members of their race from making Evanston their home.”2

In 1959, a developer tried to build an integrated housing subdivision project in Deerfield but it was met with heated resistance, forcing the developer to abandon the project. It would take another ten-plus years before Deerfield would see its first Black resident.

Real estate protest march in Downtown Evanston
Real estate protest march in Downtown Evanston

During the 1960s, organized marches protesting the unfair housing restrictions and redlining had gained momentum. Church groups and organizations, local and metro areas, converged into Evanston and marched through the downtown area, often stopping infant of real estate offices with signs and chants.

Dr. King spent the night in the basement

The struggle reached its heights during the 1960s—the decade of significant changes throughout the United States relating to race relations. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work brought him to the North Shore on four occasions. His visits, sermons and marches birthed new organizations, and movements challenging discriminatory housing in the suburban communities north of Chicago.

Dr. King at the Orrington Hotel, October 1962
Dr. King at the Orrington Hotel, October 1962

Dr. Kings first visit was by the invitation from Beth Emet the Free Synagogue in Evanston, January 13, 1958. His recorded speech was on integration and, ironically, Dr. King spent the night in the basement of the synagogue because “nearby hotels would not allow Negro guests”.

During 1961, the North Shore Summer Project is born of the efforts community members in Wilmette, Illinois with the goal of challenging owners who refuse housing to Jews and African Americans to open up. The movement grew to include more than 40 religious, civic and human relations organizations.

Dr. King’s second and third visit was in October 1962 and again in 1963, speaking on integration at the Unitarian Church and a press conference at the then Orrington Hotel. His 1963 visit was at the First United Methodist Church.

On July 25, 1965, the North Shore Summer Project held a major rally attracting close to 10,000 people on the Winnetka Village Green. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the keynote speaker where he pushed for equal housing on the North Shore. The rally also had detractors including those representing Nazi ideologies urging whites to resist opening housing up to “Negroes”.

Dr. King and Alice Tregay
Dr. King and Alice Tregay

There were many local members who had interacted with and worked under Dr. King during his visits. Evanston Resident Bill Logan and the late Louis Mosely were tasked to be Dr. King’s bodyguard. Alice Tregay and Bennett Johnson worked in various committees that involved interaction with Dr. King.

Mr. Logan, who later became Evanston’s first Black Police Chief during the 1980s remembers words from Dr. King while working with him. “Go and get your degrees…”

Evanston Passed a fair housing ordinance that became effective January 1, 1968 that affected real estate brokers. Even with the new ordinance, housing discrimination continued for years after.

On Dr. King’s death, the North Shore mourned with the rest of the country and held memorials honoring his legacy. One such memorial was held in April of 1968 in Evanston’s Raymond Park. Local leader Helen Cromer Cooper and the Rev. F.W. McEwen of Tabernacle Baptist Church were among several speakers. In Evanston, That year, Foster School’s lab experiment was renamed to honor Dr. King.

The impact of Dr. King’s work is honored today throughout the North Shore, known in the area as “a day of service”, and is filled with lectures, performances and other activities. Remember, and act.

Sources:
1. Chicago Daily Tribune, August 7, 1913
2. Chicago Defender, February 13, 1935, page 13

Photographs: Photos of Dr. King are from the Shorefront photographic archives ©Evanston Photographic Studio. Photo of marchers, ©Charles Johnson and Photo of Dr. King and Alice Tregay courtesy of Alice Tregay both in the Shorefront photographic archives.

Internship at the Shorefront Legacy Center

— By Elizabeth Sanderson

Melvin Smith papers
Melvin Smith papers

I came to archive at Shorefront under the suggestion of Benn Joseph, the professor at my archiving class at Dominican University. Dino Robinson, Shorefront’s founder, was very approachable and informative and I greatly enjoy working for him. His personal knowledge of the growing collection continues to amaze me. What he began as a personal investigation into his own history and genealogy, Shorefront has built into a substantial resource of the experiences and history of African Americans on Chicago’s North Shore. The greatest benefit of this experience for me has been grasping the enormity of the work required to build an archive from scratch.

There are two rows of metal shelves that hold the archival materials. One row for each the processed and unprocessed materials. The processed archives are organized on one level by subject content and additionally by material type. According to Dino, the collection has increased by 50% over the last year. The BMRC did the initial set up for the finding aid for the archives. The BMRC work is the standard for the archive.

I was allowed to choose where I wanted to begin. To start, I spent time perusing the collection, and then created labels for many of the processed boxes using a preexisting template. Once the part of the processed collection that was ready to be labeled had been dealt with, and I had a better sense of what was needed, I decided to complete the processing and create a finding aid for the Melvin Smith collection. Ultimately, processing any archive is about allowing the information to bring a system into focus that makes sense of the information. Determining what is valuable or even useful is impossible without understanding the scope of the information.

Melvin Smith Collection
Melvin Smith Collection

This collection consists of 14 boxes. The bulk of the collection is the records of the CCC (Concerned Citizens Commitment) Newsette, which operated from 1971 through 1985. Melvin Smith-an activist for community and education-wrote the CCC publication, as a nonprofit voice for the African American community in at first, Evanston and Skokie, and later expanded to Waukegan and Zion. Smith also retained the ledgers for the CCC as well as his former newspaper, the Evanston Newsette. Several boxes contain photographic materials, of which there are three types: original photographs, screen stats for printing purposes, and mockups of all publications.

It took me awhile to get a handle on the scope of content

When I began processing the collection, a pristine complete set of the publications had already been completely processed. Some of the mockups were paper clipped to additional copies of the newsletters and organized into envelopes. I separated the mockups from the copies of the Newsette and organized them chronologically. This way, the mockups could perhaps be set aside as restricted access in order to preserve the integrity of the documents as originals. The pristine copies could also be set aside and the secondary copies could be use for research purposes.

The collection was large and the processing was slow going. It took me awhile to get a handle on the scope of content to figure out how to organize it. The CCC Newsette issues and their related materials were the easiest, because of their subtype and chronological characterization.

Intern
Processing the Smith Collection

I couldn’t have asked for a better collection to process. There are a fair amount of photographs. Much of Smith’s source materials were of interest historically, especially as an Evanston resident. The most moving aspect was the overarching story of Melvin Smith’s life. Smith stood as a voice against injustice. He was also a man of commitment, diligently reaching out into the community and serving the people the news. There are investigative files about corruption of Evanston policemen and councilmen. And internationally known incidents, like the attempt to deport former Northwestern University professor Dennis Brutus back to South Africa. There are also folders full of correspondence that demonstrate the care and genuine effort Smith invested into the people who surrounded him. He was careful to respond to everyone who wrote him, and served as a mentor and advocate for all those-family and not-within his sphere of influence. The documents for the AHOC highlight Smith’s passion for what is the abiding mission of Shorefront, honoring history by creating a forum in which it can be preserved. Watching this information come into focus has been and incredible experience for me.