Shorefront Update #011

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Premier screening of “Lorraine H. Morton: A Life Worthwhile”. Hon. Morton seated center.

2018 has been a significant year for Shorefront. Outreach, programming, recognition and special projects has kept Shorefront’s boards busy. Our activities throughout the year has expanded our impact on both a local and national platform.

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Dino Robinson

Shorefront founder, Dino Robinson, has been a strong advocate on the importance of independent community repositories and controlling its “own narrative”. He has presented these ideas in various forums and as a speaker at archival forums at Harvard University, UCLA, the Midwest Archives Conference Annual Meeting, the Black Communities symposiums in North Carolina and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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Former Foster School now a local landmark

In addition, Shorefront presented a successful argument before the local Preservation Commission to have recognize the historic significance of a property that was once a segregated school in Evanston. The Commission unanimously voted in favor of passing a resolution recognizing it as an Evanston Landmark based on its history and the City of Evanston passed the resolution on October 22, 2018.

Shorefront produced and released its first independent documentary, “Lorraine H. Morton: A Life Worthwhile,” chronicling the nearly 100-year life of Evanston’s first African American Mayor, former alderman and career elementary and junior high teacher and principal. Hon. Morton, seated, at the premier screening on Northwestern University’s campus June 29, 2018. Since the release, Shorefront hosted 5 free public screenings of the documentary and has been entered into several film festivals. In 2019, Shorefront will release the DVDs.

Lastly, Shorefront gives thanks to our major funders, who over the years continue to support the activities of Shorefront. These include the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) African American History and Culture grant; MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Francis Beidler Foundation; and the Stone Heritage Properties.

IMLS enabled Shorefront to establish its publishing arm, Shorefront Press, form new partnerships and outreach efforts, attract new board members and expand its collection, recognizing two distinct island communities.

Under the Press, we signed three new titles. Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr: The Emergence of Black Political Power in Evanston, Illinois, 1931–1947; Dream Dancers Vol Two: Journey to the Promised Land 1865-1924; and Maintenance and Change of Status Immigrant Community: Haitians in Evanston, Illinois(summer 2019). Our titles are available on

Shorefront expanded its collection efforts to include two island communities present in the North Shore, Haiti and Jamaica. As Shorefront worked to build community with each presence, we have participated in multiple celebrations, had one-on-one discussions with representatives and now appear on a regular basis on a local Haitian radio station.

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Filming the Shorefront Promo

The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has funded Shorefront over the last six years providing general support. This enabled Shorefront to welcome over 500 visitors to the Legacy Center including high school students and faculty, community groups and initiatives and student groups from Northwestern University. We revamped our multiple websitesinto a more cohesive and connected web presence and produced a 60 second video on the function of Shorefront that is viewable at our website. We added new panels for the “Legacies” traveling exhibit that was on display at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center throughout 2018. Lastly, we engaged in new partnerships that complimented the 6th annual Black History Month Lecture Series creating over 20 public programs during the month of February.

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Honorary street naming ceremony of a local Haitian community leader

On a weekly basis, Shorefront engages with the local community in various aspects of collecting, archiving and advocating for the preservation of local history. We cannot continue this without the generous support of our collective communities. 100% of funds supports these activities for future generations and we truly appreciate your support. Looking forward to 2019 for a new year in community archiving! Follow us on our various social media platforms and our new website launch site:



Researching Glencoe’s Racial Past

Taylor Family c1920s in Glencoe
Taylor Family posing in Glencoe, IL, c1920s

—By Celia

I came to work at Shorefront through a circuitous series of realizations and referrals. During the summer of 2017, just before I went to college, I was reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy on my back porch in Glencoe. I was taken aback by Stevenson’s stories of defending inmates on death row, but equally struck by two of his other ideas: First, that the United States has a long, long way to go in memorializing the horrendous legacy of slavery, and second, that one must be proximate to issues to truly understand them and make a difference.

While reading about the cruelty of systematic incarceration and capital punishment of African-Americans, I couldn’t help but think about to which issues I, a Jewish girl on her back porch in Glencoe, was proximate. Throughout my time in Glencoe’s public schools and New Trier High School, I could count my black classmates on one hand, and had never considered why. Nearly all-white suburbs are not natural; they are the products of deliberate racial discrimination. I had been so close to the issue that I couldn’t see it for what it was. It was time to transform that inability to examine my surroundings to a meaningful proximity, like stepping back from an impressionist painting.

How did my town come to be so white, and what was to be done about it? That was the question I tried to answer with a free summer and the internet at my disposal. I found scans of census records on a genealogy website and hand-counted each black resident from decades of data. Although tedious, I found something important: the black population of Glencoe halved in between 1920 and 1930. What had happened during that time?

I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t know where to go next for my research. I read Robert Sideman’s African-Americans in Glencoe, which illuminated some important sources for me, and interviewed a few residents. I would be starting school soon, and had to table the project to transition to college.

Just a few weeks in, I met Dr. Chatelain, a history professor at my university. She’s regarded as a must-take professor – equally accomplished and devoted to her students. When I told her about my nascent project, she directed me to Shorefront, where she had done research in graduate school. I reached out to Dino, and started to work in the archives when I returned home for the summer.

I really enjoyed organizing sources to be used by future researchers. I categorized letters written by Freedom Summer teachers to their disapproving parents. I sifted through legal notices and memoranda about discrimination by the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. But what interested me the most was a heap of unsorted materials about Glencoe from the 1880s to present day: newspaper clippings, letters, invitations, pamphlets. They proved incredibly helpful in establishing what had happened in my hometown, from its inception to the present. With that arc of history came a set of patterns that made Glencoe the way it is today.

First, Glencoe was always meant to be idyllic. This hasn’t changed much since its founding: Glencoe is situated overlooking a beautiful beach; it’s filled with well-maintained green spaces; the schools are well-regarded and small enough that everyone knows one another; the houses are beautiful and often sell for millions. Such was the vision of its founders, who sought an escape from their busy city lives.

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St. Paul A.M.E. Youth Choir practicing for the MLK remembrance in 1983. Photo by Jim Robinson

African-Americans bought property in Glencoe from early on in its history. Morton Culver, a local real estate developer, first sold land to blacks from Chicago in the early 1880s. The St Paul AME Church was founded shortly after in 1884. I found a Chicago Tribune article from the same year about a picnic in Glencoe, an event that drew blacks from the city and a number of surrounding suburbs. The picnickers are reported to have sung, “We’ll rest in this beautiful land, / Just along Michigan’s shore / Sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, / And dwell in Glencoe evermore.”

The vision of a blissful suburb seemed, at this moment, accessible to blacks. The air was fresher and the schools, which had always been racially integrated, were better than the cramped ones in the city.

But Chicago’s white elite was also taking notice of this ideal setting. Wealthy white couples started to pine after lakefront mansions for the weekends, and founded country clubs to entertain them during their stays. Eventually, these weekend visitors began to permanently settle in Glencoe.

A critical mass of them took measures to remove black people from Glencoe. In 1919, the Glencoe Homes Association was founded by residents with the intent to “beautify” the town. It bought properties to be resold with what Robert Sideman calls “zoning-like restrictions” to increase the town’s green space and sell selectively to what it deemed “proper” buyers.

In 1927, Glencoe Homes embarked on a project with the town’s government to build a public park. Rather than using the town’s many vacant lots, it would be located in the middle of southwest Glencoe – where the majority of black families lived. After much opposition, the families were forced to settle. The Glencoe Homes Association published an op-ed in the local paper about their disapproval of the “negro colony,” paraded under the headline: “Prevention by ‘Syndicate’ of Blight to Community Saved Realty Values in Millions.”

This is the point at which Glencoe’s black community halved, the enormous dip in the census data. I had sometimes wondered why Watts Park, where I learned to ice skate and had lacrosse practice, was divided by a street in the middle. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for it to be continuous? But nearly all-white suburbs are not natural; they are planned deliberately.

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July 10, 1942 Chicago SunTimes article

Despite this major fracture in Glencoe’s black population, the suburb continued to be relatively more diverse and progressive when compared to its surrounding suburbs. A.L. Foster, a Glencoe resident and then-Executive Director of the Chicago Urban League, won a case to desegregate Glencoe’s public beach in 1942, while Kenilworth didn’t have a single black resident until 1963.

Glencoe became a small enclave for black residents in an otherwise overwhelmingly white sea of suburbia. Mayor Robert Morris initiated programs to encourage African-Americans to apply for the village’s jobs in the mid-1950s, and the Glencoe Human Relations Committee formed to advocate for open housing and more harmonious race relations. When parents of New Trier students formed Concerned Black Parents in 1977, it met consistently where there was a critical mass of black parents: Glencoe. The group pushed for New Trier’s recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and inclusive teaching at the majority white high school.

Newspaper articles I found from this period struck me as odd. There were multiple articles that profiled Glencoe’s black residents as anomalies in their exposure to such a progressive society. In particular, I found this article bold in its claim to Glencoe as a champion of race relations:

February 9, 1977 (Suburban Trib)

“Assumptions on Race don’t Hold; Glencoe’s 6% Black”: The article rebukes the assumption that Glencoe has no black population, but rather a percentage far below the national average. It also acknowledges that “…a black homeowner will have to sell for a bit less than a white homeowner with a comparable house in Glencoe.” It recognizes that the original sale of property to blacks in Glencoe may have been a scheme to resentfully decrease its property value, but it “backfired and for years Glencoe was a primary source for domestic help on the North Shore.” Such “backfiring” refers only to the quality of life for white residents.

While these articles clung to every testimony and long-time residency of black Glenconians, the population has been declining gradually, but consistently, at about 1% per decade since 1930. One woman whom I interviewed cited the exorbitant housing prices as the main reason that her children didn’t raise their families in their hometown – an obstacle exacerbated by the fact that blacks often sold their homes for lower than they were worth. Another black resident wrote to the Glencoe News in 2004 to lament her inability to return to Glencoe because the homes on her childhood block had been torn down to build houses of twice the value. One might be reminded of the Glencoe Homes Association’s calls to beautify the town, and its consequences.

But economics aside, and with a multitude of studies proving that black families are more likely to live in lower-income areas even if they can afford not to do so, other factors influenced this gradual exodus. In a 2004 Glencoe News article entitled “Black Population Dwindles,” advocates cite widespread “‘steering’ [of] prospective homeowners toward communities that fit their demographic.” Carol Hendrix, a co-founder of Concerned Black Parents, witnessed her community leaving Glencoe over time, saying, “…[T]here was an effort by the builders to engineer the neighborhood.” Angela Hatfield, another resident interviewed in the article, said she was virtually certain that a white family would live in her home after her. 

Glencoe is currently 0.7% black. With its green spaces and beautiful beach, its colonial homes and quaint downtown, I can’t help but think of a line from Martin Luther King Junior’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He writes of the shame and injustice in “when you…see tears welling up in [your six year old daughter’s] eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people.” Glencoe is Funtown. While it wasn’t part of the Jim Crow South, it had been closed off to African-Americans in a gradual, de facto manner. Beyond the public policy implications of this injustice, it’s an affront to the dignity of so many.

In closing, I tried to better understand this issue to which I was so proximate. In doing so, I realized just how much history this suburb, of less than ten thousand residents and five square miles, holds. This history was sometimes subject to the reverberations of events far beyond its own scale – the Great Migration, for example – but, on the whole, was largely influenced by everyday people trying to change their hometown. From Morton Culver to A.L. Foster to Carol Hendrix, these individuals transformed the microcosm that is Glencoe, beyond the purview of anything I would learn about in an American History class. I’m grateful for organizations like Shorefront, that safeguard these local histories, and the legacies of those who sacrificed for their vision of a more equitable society.


Sideman, Robert A., African Americans in Glencoe: The Little Migration, © 2009, The History Press, Charleston, SC.

Chicago Sun-Times, “Court Opens Glencoe Beach To Negro Family: Injunction Granted Against Official Of Park District”, July 10, 1942.

Suburban Tribune, “Assumptions on Race don’t Hold; Glencoe’s 6% Black”, February 9, 1977.

Wednesday Night Bridge Group Now Includes Men!

—By Janet Alexander Davis

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Don Washington, Nellie Nichols, Lorraine Morton, Kathy Boatright, Grace Pickens, Rev. Nabors (there for dinner) Edna Barber (hostess for that bridge day) Terri Ann Langston, and John Frye. Sitting is Janet Alexander Davis. Photo by Pam Barber

Change is one of the constant experiences we all will face during our lives, and change has come to an all women’ s bridge group which started around 60 years ago, The Wednesday Night group has been in existence for more than 60 years. Back then, many African American families were able to provide for their families where mothers and wives were able to stay home, raising their children and care for other family members. So too was the situation that enabled this group to begin and remain intact even today. Many wonderful members have passed away and others took their place, but they are never forgotten. That’s the beauty of memories, our bridge members that have gone home to be with the Lord, are never very far away. We remember often members who played a hand so well we couldn’t believe it, always served sumptuous food for our dinner and others made everyone laugh so hard they had to hold their stomachs.

Within the last several years, two men have added a wonderful addition to the vitality of our bridge group. John Frye and Don Washington are gifted players, and many of us want to beat them at their game of bridge! Lorraine Morton, former Mayor and Educator said about the group, “I thoroughly enjoy the group and its challenges. I get a kick out of the fact there are two men in the group- both excellent players. I enjoy more when I win a prize and they don’t.”

Our Wednesday Night Bridge Group meets every first and third Wednesday, and to make the night more interesting we give out three cash prizes. We won’t get rich on the amount but it adds spice to the process of playing five rounds of bridge and receiving bragging rights of winning at the end of the evening.

Cathy Boatright, retired Math Teacher, says about the group, “The joy of having friendships with several ladies and now gentlemen who enjoy playing bridge is wonderful. I enjoy talking about current events on a national level and events that affect the City of Evanston is most simulating.”

Hearing from one of the newest members of the group Don Washington, retired law enforcement officer says, “The group is stimulating, interesting, entertaining and keeps me young and happy.” The other man to join the group John Fyre, retired postal employee and business owner says, “I look forward to the first and third Wednesdays of each month.”

Some of the other members shared their thoughts about the bridge group including Terriann Langston, retired government employee, “I have such fun!” Nellie Nichols, retired from the medical field says, “Our friendships remain stronger through the years, we are all neighbors at one time or another of the City of Evanston which makes it special. I’ve been in the group 51 years.” One of the longest members in the group is Grace Pickens, retired care taker, ” I came here in 1955 and I joined the bridge group while visiting at Sam Mckinley’s house, even though at the time, I didn’t know how to play. There never was a discussion on asking men to join and I was there because initially it was something to do. I like to play. . .I enjoy winning. . .when I make a slam (taking all the books except one is called a little slam, taking all the books is called a grand slam and is a real feat) I get such a thrill and I get up from my chair and yell! it’s a lovely group. . .having men in the group is about the same for me, I always want to beat them!”

The longest serving member of the group is Edna Barber, a retiree in the medical field and a thoughtful bridge play. Edna always seems to have the card you’d rather her not have because it causes you to miss your bid!

At times, I had been substituting in the group when others couldn’t attend. After some of the members passed away, I was asked along with another person to join the group. It’s been a wonderful experience and I look forward to the friendship, compassion and camaraderie from a fantastic group of people.

Bridge club c1950s at the then, Foster Recreational Center, now Fleetwood Jourdain Center. Photo courtesy of Virginia Griffin, Shorefront photographic collection

I started learning how to play bridge in my late 20s. Back then there were quite a few bridge groups around so I had the opportunity to play with some of the best players around such as the late (all late) Dr. Florence Winfield, Gillie Frye, Louise Dye, Camilla Harris, Celestine Washington, Ernestine Guillebeaux, Honorable Mayme Spencer and more. Bridge was a popular past time then and was enjoyed by many, not so much today, though there are opportunities to play bridge at the Levy Center.

In Memory of Lorraine H. Morton

Microsoft Word - Shorefront Cover Letter for In Memory of Mayor Morton.docx

Standing left to right: Don Washington, Nellie Nichols, John Frye, Grace Pickens, Janet Alexander Davis, Terri Ann Langston. Sitting left to right: Edna Barber, Lorraine Morton, Kathy Boatright. Photo by James Davis

Since 1958, the Wednesday Night Bridge Group has gathered together for an evening of fun and camaraderie. the late Honorable Morton was a member of our bridge group for many years and brought smiles and laughter to us all: Grace Pickens, Nellie Nichols, Terri Ann Langston, Janet Alexander Davis, John Frye, Don Washington, Carlis Sutton, Sue Aron, September 22, 2018.

Shorefront Legacy Center: A North Shore Jewel

— By Angela F. Allen

The Family Rendezvous Reunion visiting Shorefront on July 21, 2018

Abbeville, SC to Evanston, IL

In 2016, my family and I ventured to Abbeville, South Carolina to walk the land, to visit the cemetery and to spend time in the church of our maternal ancestors. It was the first time for some family members to see this part of the country. Abbeville connected us to our southern roots. That connection made this trip special.

In keeping with the theme of “connection,” the Family Rendezvous 2016 participants voted to explore Evanston, Illinois in 2018. A great number of Abbeville residents migrated to Evanston during the Great Migration. By 1925, our maternal ancestors lived in Evanston: Oscar and Catherine (Jenkins) Davis, 1011 Emerson; Rufus and Annetta (Ramey) Watt, 1012 Ayars Place; Spencer and Mary Watt, 1012 Ayars Place. Oscar and Catherine Davis’ descendants currently reside in Evanston.

IMG_0976On Saturday, July 21, 2018, the major event for the Family Rendezvous 2018 introduced the participants to Shorefront Legacy Center, (Shorefront) 2214 Ridge Avenue, Lower Level, Evanston, IL. Morris “Dino” Robinson, Shorefront’s founder, graciously hosted over 50 family members and friends from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Evanston residents, Mattie Amaker, Priscilla Giles, and Catherine Johnson, members of the African American History and Genealogy Study Group of Evanston and Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago, attended and offered their expertise.

IMG_0947Shorefront’s welcoming spirit encourages investigating, learning, and researching. This repository immediately immersed participants into Evanston’s African American history. The Shorefront Journal covers spread out across a wall displaying faces from the community. Another wall display highlights various photos and artifacts. The meeting room contains artifacts, books, and an ongoing video presentation. In the midst of all of these displays stands the Archives.

Founder Dino Robinson

Once everyone gathered, Dino discussed how Shorefront began. He recognized a dearth of Black historic information on the North Shore and the need to establish a center in Evanston that would serve as a place for educating students and researchers, for preserving historic material, and for showcasing the contributions that African Americans made to the community. Participants listened intently. Family members appreciated Dino’s knowledge and passion for history. One member described Dino as a “walking encyclopedia.” Some members pinpointed particular elements of Dino’s discussion that touched them:

  • Dino laid out the importance of Shorefront by explaining what would happen if its collection had been given over to a larger institution. Not many people know these things.
  • The idea that students and researchers have access to the actual archives impressed me.
  • It was wonderful to see photos and artifacts unique to the area.

Dino entertained questions. Family members asked significant questions regarding funding for Shorefront, maintaining the collection, and volunteering to process the collection. Others perused the books and artifacts. Most members purchased copies of Shorefront’s publication –A Place We Can Call Our Home (by Morris Robinson, Jr.). The Family Rendezvous 2018 committee donated copies of the Family Rendezvous 2016 and 2018 Family History books for the Abbeville, South Carolina collection, and a promise to donate the family t-shirt as well. Overall, the visit to the Shorefront Legacy Center proved to be a worthwhile educational experience.

Anyone with an interest in African American History on Chicago’s suburban north shore, take the time to explore the Shorefront Legacy Center, the North Shore Jewel. Consult for the online finding aid and additional information.

Forming the Evanston Branch NAACP: A Historical Outline

—by Dino Robinson

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2017 Evanston Chapter NAACP officer installation ceremony. Ret. Judge Mary Maxwell-Thomas delivering the oath of service.

There are moments in this country’s history when movements emerge in response to social conditions surrounding us. Our current generations “Black Lives Matter” came to life defined by the inequity of law enforcements treatment of people of color. The Civil Rights movement was defined by the activities of the 1950s and 60s. Fighting the establishment of Jim Crow during the Reconstruction era, led to the formation of the Niagara Movement in 1905.

Established on February 12, 1909, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was birthed out of the 1905 Niagara Movement. In Evanston, with a population of a little under 1,200 Black residents, had just begun to take action against the growing local Jim Crow establishment. Local and national newspapers took note while Evanston was compelled to maintain the image of a “sanctified” town, all while Jim Crow was becoming the norm. Evanston’s Black residents took action, challenged society, questioned government — and made headlines.

May 6, 1903 (Chicago Tribune)
“Evanston Blacks Fear Wave of Race Prejudice”:The article tells of a certain colored man frightening women and calls upon the colored people to keep their brother at home. The article is headed, “A Rope Might Do,” and the colored people in Evanston take it seriously. . .

January 22, 1904 (Chicago Tribune)
“North Shore Towns Aroused: Influx of Negroes Alarms the Residents of Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe”: .. . As a solution of the problem suddenly presented, Evanston citizens are reviving the old scheme of a town for negroes, to be located near Niles Center. To this it is proposed to deport objectionable characters.

February 7, 1906 (Chicago Tribune)
Charges Stir a Post office: Race Discrimination on of accusations at Evanston – Trouble is said to arise out of Employment of Negro Carriers”:
. . .DePugh accused Peterson frequently of discrimination against the colored carriers and is said to have made frequent threats that he would “tell what he knew.” Several times he was threatened with dismissal.

August 26, 1911 (Chicago Defender)
“Jim Crow Cars for Cultured Evanston”:Evanston Southern (White) Society Successful in Jim Crow Theater, will now resort to Jim Crow street cars — The Unwarranted segregation a blight in cultured Evanston; Where there are as many churches as schools. The Rights of the negro citizen should be demanded and respected; the matter peaceably adjusted, once and always— The constitution of the United States must be respected and guarded as strictly as the “Monroe Doctrine” was in the case of Cuba and the Mother Country.

In the same issue:

“The Segregation Equivalent at Evanston”:. . .Whether Evanston is to continue to maintain a clean, respectable, unbiased community such as she bears by reputation will be watched editorially by the Defender with great interest.

September 2, 1911 (Chicago Defender)
“Forces are Fighting Jim Crowism”:Rev. H. S. Graves of Ebenezer AME and Rev. E.H. Fletcher of Mt. Zion Baptist church charged against Jim Crowism from their pulpits on last Sunday evening. . .

September 9, 1911 (Chicago Defender)
“Colored People Admitted in All Parts of Evanston Theater”:The management of the Evanston theater came into camp with a flag of truce begging mercy of the butler of the Northwestern railroad president, Dr. and Mrs. Garnett, and Attorney Auter for trying to keep them out of a decent place to sit in their playhouse…

November 4, 1911 (Chicago Defender)
“Wealthy Evanstonians Speak in Defense of their Lethargy. . . Dr. W.F. Garnett cool but determined for Justice”: . . . [Long op-ed. ending with a listing of local leaders] – Respectfully submitted – Dr. W.F. Garnett, Samuel J. Cannon, William H. Twiggs, Richard C. Williams, James P. Hill, Thomas F. Richardson, Frank Davenport, Charles C. Breckenridge, Dr. Arthur D. Butler, Adam P. Perry, William F. Cromer, Thomas H. Cotton, Charles Morris, Joseph Prather, Robert T. Milner, Henry Butler, Sandy Trent, D.W. Richardson, John R. Auter, Charles B. Scruggs, J. H. Blackwell, Ernest Burns.

February 10, 1912 (Chicago Defender)
“Evanston Theater Sued by Mrs. Garnett”: Mrs. Helen W. Garnett, wife of Dr. Garnett, who lives in Evanston. The suit was brought for $500 in the circuit court. Hon. E.H. Morris is the man behind the law

June 22, 1912 (Chicago Defender)
“Evanston Theater Still Bars Negroes”:On last Saturday evening the Evanston Theater company again showed that it did not want and would not have Negroes sitting on the ground floor. . . Mr. Vance informed her that they would not tolerate Negroes on the first floor.

August 7, 1913 (Chicago Tribune)
“Wilmette Takes Trail of Negroes”:Village residents call meeting for Saturday Night to discuss “Invasion”. . . Demanded property list. . . If Black men are revealed as purchasers means of ousting will be considered. “It is expected Mr. Barker will be invited to the meeting Saturday night and asked to explain what guarantee he has that the village will remain white.

May 6, 1916 (Chicago Defender)
“Demands Right to Choose Seat”:Evanston, IL, May 5—John Smith, who was arrested after he had refused to take a seat to which he was directed in an Evanston movie show, today prepared to make a fight against the “Jim Crow” rules which are enforced in a number of similar places. . .

The Crisis Magazine, established in 1910 as the official organ of the NAACP, reported some activities in Evanston. Of note, the August, 1918 issue (Vol 16, No 4), published a roll of 26 members in Evanston. The April 1919 issue (Vol 17, No 6) published a roll of 59 members in Evanston. By the end of 1919, the Crisislisted a total of 11 active chapters of the NAACP in the State of Illinois and included Evanston, Illinois.

June 28, 1919(Chicago Defender)
Professor A.C. McNeal was the principal speaker at the NAACP meeting, held at the Emerson Street Y . . .. Dr. W. F. Garnett was master of ceremonies. Prof. W.W. Fisher was elected president of the NAACP and Mrs. Elizabeth Croford [sp] Williams secretary.

The Evanston chapter worked toward making an organized impact within Evanston with efforts to show formal structure:

April 30, 1921 (Chicago Defender)
“Mrs. G. DeBaptist Ashburn spoke at the “Y” Thursday evening in the interest of the NAACP and reorganized the branch in this city.

Though the early charter members of the Evanston NAACP are not clear, it is noted that within the combined early newspapers and publications, several names had appeared. Among them were the following:

Dr. William F. Garnett
Hellen W. Garnett
Rev. Horace Graves (Ebenezer)
Rev. E.H. Fletcher (Mt. Zion)
Dr. Isabella Garnett
Dr. Arthur D. Butler
William H. Twiggs
Prof. W.W. Fisher (served president, 1919)
Elizabeth Croford [sp] Williams (secretary, 1919)
Dr. R. M. Young (served as president, 1921)
W.M. Tate (V.P. 1921)
S.C. Nichols (secretary, 1921)
J.E. Moor (asst. sec., 1921)
J. Malone (treasurer, 1921)

By 1924, This Evanston chapter dissolved. However, a renewed interest in chartering a new Evanston branch NAACP was reported in the November 10, 1927 issue of the Evening News Index.

“Colored people of Evanston May Join Association: Plan to Organize Unit at Sunday Meeting”. . . Evanston colored citizens let by I.G. Roberts and Albert C. Ivole [sp], will meet at the Emerson Street Church to organize themselves into a unit of the NAACP. . . Three years ago, the Evanston unit disbanded, and Monday evening the group will make plans to apply for a new charter.

Then in November, 1928

“Negro Association to Launch Member Drive at Meet Tomorrow”:Tomorrow the Evanston branch of the NAACP, which has recently been organized through the efforts of E.D. Seals, will launch a drive for members. . . The Rev. William J. Weaver, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal church of Evanston is president of the Evanston Chapter.

A few of the members mentioned in articles after the new charter include the following:

E.D. Seals
Gertrude O’Neill (program chair)
Rev. William J. Weaver (president, 1928)
Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr (his father was involved with the original Niagara Movement)
Daisy Sandridge (former 5thward alderman)
Robert Pettitt (president, 1935)
LeJune Fisher
Claude Cephas

The work of the Evanston Branch NAACP has since been uninterrupted after its new charter in 1928. The early activism of Evanston’s Black community rose to fight against Jim Crow. Today, the Evanston Branch NAACP continues its advocacy for modern Civil Rights. The Evanston branch has had about 25 presidents, and a legion of executives and board members. The past known presidents are as follows:

Dr. William F. Garnett, 1918?
Prof. W.W. Fisher, 1919
Dr. R. M. Young, 1921
Rev. William J. Weaver, 1928
Robert Petitt, 1935
William Wright (dates uncertain)
Clarence Mason, Sr. (dates uncertain)
Lula Harper-Jackson (dates uncertain)
Rev. J. Rayford Talley (dates uncertain)
Dr. Samuel McDonald (dates uncertain)
Charles Worthington (dates uncertain)
William Pyant (dates uncertain)
Dr. Warren F. Spencer, 1957-63
Andrew L. Cooper, 1964-68
Carl E. Davis, 1969-76
Edna Summers, 1977-78
Coleman Miller, 1979-84
Joseph E. Hill, 1984-89
Bennett J. Johnson, 1990
Rev. John Norwood, 1991-92
Coleman Miller, 1993
Hecky Powell, 1993
Fred Hunter, Jr., 1994
Bennett J. Johnson, 1995-2002
George Mitchell, 2002-16
Rev. Michael Nabors, 2017 –

While this is just a summary of the Evanston Chapters, spanning nearly 100 years, there is still much discovery needed, especially for its early local history. Let’s make this happen.


Notes: Oral presentation first delivered at the Evanston Chapter, NAACP Installation Ceremony held at Unitarian Church of Evanston, Sunday, January 22, 2017 written and researched by Dino Robinson, founder of Shorefront. The article was modified for formatting


Beauty, Jazz and Dreams: Kathryn Wimp’s Musical Journey With Duke Ellington

— By Carrie Moea Brown

Stage name, Kay Davis production shot while touring with Duke Ellington

As Kathryn “Kay” MacDonald finished up the last two songs in her performance in Chicago, her eyes fixed toward the back of the auditorium. In walked a man surrounded by what in modern terms is referred to as an entourage. The year was 1944, and within moments she recognized what others around her already did— Duke Ellington had arrived. She left her place on stage and joined those down in the audience; pushing to get a closer look, when she finally reached him she was greeted with a question…

…“Can you be in Baltimore next week?” Ellington asked.

A week earlier, she and a friend attended one of Ellington’s performances. On a whim she decided to head backstage and after brief introductions she sang a tune. When she saw that Ellington seemed to enjoy it —and feeling even braver— she invited him to an upcoming performance.

“I was crazy about the man and his band,” Kay (now Kathryn Wimp) said in an interview with Northwestern Alumni News in 2001. “He was the epitome of style and class.”

She was pleasantly surprised that he had taken her up on her invitation— and even more surprised when he offered her a job. “I went home and packed my little trunk,” she said. “And that was the beginning of my career.”

The Formative Years

Born Kathryn MacDonald, in Evanston, Wimp knew early on in life that she wanted to sing. When her father, a chiropractor and her mother a homemaker from Evanston moved the family Bushnell, Ill. (62 miles outside of Peoria) she left behind a rich family history that included her grandfather, William H. Twiggs. An active civic leader, Twiggs was ahead of his time in working toward success in Evanston’s Black community. In 2000, this publication reported that he arrived in Evanston from Davenport, Iowa in 1884. He went on to own and operate a barbershop and printing press. Today, a park located south of Canal between Simpson and Payne streets bears his name.

Twiggs family c1912. Katherine Twiggs (Kay’s mother) far left

By the time Wimp arrived back in Evanston for high school her interest in music had piqued. “I remember singing ‘Trees’ in elementary school,” says Wimp by phone from her home in Florida. It was her first time singing in public. She also recalls that her father used to sing in a Catholic choir—and she credits that with being a major factor in her choice to pursue music.

In her last two years at Evanston Township High School, Wimp began taking voice lessons. The school was de-segregated because it was the only high school for students in Evanston, black or white. There, she was a student of Roy Schuzler, a music teacher at ETHS who happened to be a student of Northwestern University music professor Walter Allen Stults. The relationship she forged with Schuzler would prove beneficial when she enrolled as a voice major at Northwestern’s School of Music.

Back at ETHS, she joined a choir newly formed by the head of the music department. Wimp recalls walking into the rehearsal room to find the entire choir was Black. They were all perplexed, she says. The head music teacher, a white woman from Texas, explained that she thought forming an all Black choir was a good idea because she felt the Black students sang so well.

Wimp says they all walked out of the room.  And the notion of an all Black choir was soon dismantled.

There were other challenges that faced Blacks living in Evanston at the time. On Sundays she would go downtown with her two younger brothers and her parents to get ice cream, but they would eat it on the drive home because they weren’t allowed to sit in the parlor.

Once, when Wimp was a teenager she and a friend who was darker skinned attempted to eat in at a popular diner in downtown Evanston. The staff offered to serve the lighter skinned Wimp, but refused service to her friend. They eventually let them eat in, but according to Wimp they doused the food in salt. She and her friend cleared their plates and left. She proudly refers to it as their version of a sit-in.

Early Training

The first Black undergraduate to enroll and subsequently graduate from Northwestern was Lawyer Taylor. The Louisville-born Taylor enrolled at the age of 34 and graduated in 1903. Thirty-five years later Wimp enrolled at Northwestern’s School of Music majoring in vocal performance. Only six Black students were enrolled in the music program at the time and because of Northwestern’s policy at the time, students of color were not permitted to live in the residence halls.

“We used to drool over Willard Hall, which was right across from the music building,” Wimp said in 2001. “I had a good time at Northwestern, but there were those limitations.” Wimp says that the limitations placed on both Black and Jewish students forged a sense of unity. “We kind of bonded together,” she says.

But those years were not without controversy. In 1942 at Northwestern’s annual Waa-Mu Show, a showcase of the campus’ musical talents, Wimp sang a duet with fellow music major Jack Haskell despite the social taboos on cross-racial stage romance.

The Man and His Band

In 1943 Wimp graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in voice. The following year she received her Master’s degree. Then, the opportunity came to work with Ellington. One of her first experiences in Ellington’s band came when he taught her the simple melody to “Creole Love Song.” Within an hour she was onstage with him performing the song. The year was 1944. The place was Carnegie Hall.

“I sang, it got a wonderful ovation and then I got the heck off the stage!” she exclaims.

Her first recording with Ellington came about as he was teaching fellow band member Al Hibbler notes from “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” Wimp sat humming along off stage. Ellington asked her to join in humming. When he eventually decided to keep her on the track Wimp was less than thrilled.

“I called home crying,” she says. She wanted to be on the frontlines.

Jet Magazine, Dec. 25, 1952

But there were plenty of opportunities to showcase her talent. The following year, in April 1945, President Roosevelt died. Ellington’s band was the only jazz band asked to perform for a national audience. One piece “A City Called Heaven,” was sung by Wimp. The years went on and according to Wimp band members came and went. Among those, the only still alive are Maria Ellington (of no relation to Duke), who later married Nat King Cole and gave birth to Natalie. She now resides in Florida. The second was Joya Sherrill who now resides in Great Neck, NY. But Wimp describes Ellington as a “genius” and says that even with constant flux of female band members he remained focused. She says, unlike many of his day he didn’t fraternize with female band members. In fact, he completely absorbed by his work.

“Music was his mistress,” she says. He was always at the piano. She even heard that later he bought a portable piano –presumably before they became a main stay– which he toyed with while on the road. She says he would stay up until all hours of the night “constantly composing” music.

The years between 1944 and 1950 were filled with high profile engagements, one-nighters and cross continental trips. Wimp describes life on the road as hard.

“It’s not that glamorous day after day,” she says. As time went on “I kept holding on hoping something dramatic would happen,” she says.

The band toured relentlessly, to the Palladium in England and with the Nicolas Brothers and Pearl Bailey in Liverpool, and seemingly everywhere in between. “It was quite an experience, very exciting,” she says. In 1947 the band toured California, Texas and Georgia.

It was a “whole different thing,” she says referring to race relations. She says they were bad, and despite their high profile they couldn’t even sit down in restaurants to eat. She recalls a frightening time in Macon, Georgia. The band had just finished a show and their manager, who was white, arranged a deal with a restaurant owner across the street from the theatre. Ellington and his band hastily made their way into the restaurant, so as to avoid any controversy. When a patron saw the band arrive he demanded to know why Blacks were being served.

The restaurant owner introduced Duke Ellington. And according to Wimp the angry patron answered, “I don’t care about no Duke Ellington!”

Before things could get any more tense, Wimp ran out of the restaurant and back to the concert hall where she set up a make shift hot plate. That night, she heated a can of Campbell’s soup over the sink in the ladies’ restroom.

Though things were rough at times, she and the band remained focused. But by 1950, after a four-week tour of Europe Wimp says, “I was tired. . . I got home and said, ‘That’s it,’” she says.

One night gigs and the relentless travel schedule began to take their toll. To this day she says feelings of fatigue remind her of those one-night summer gigs.

On the music of the day she says, “It escapes me.” But she is also encouraged by the recent resurgence of old standards from the likes of artists like Michael Buble, hailed as a modern day master of the music of yesteryear.

As for advice she gives to people aspiring to break into the music business. She says, “So much of what happens to you, no matter what you do is luck.”

Kay Wimp, visiting relatives in Chicago viewing artifacts Shorefront found in her childhood home in 2006.

She parallels this with the story of a childhood friend from Evanston who also graduated from Northwestern’s music school. Ann DeRamus was Black and studied classical piano. She was considered a prodigy by most, but breaking into the world of a classical pianist as a Black woman proved to be difficult. She went on to become a social worker.

But, Wimp adds that today, “If you’re really serious about something, no matter what you do, trust and have faith that it will happen.” She adds, “Look at me. I never dreamed that I would be on stage with Ellington.”


Notes: The original article first appeared in the original printed version of Shorefront Journal, volume 7 number 3, 2006. Images from the Shorefront photographic collection, Kay Davis music collection.

Emmaline H. Jourdain: Remembering the Lady

—By Rose Jourdain

Emmaline Hardwick, c1926. Shorefront archives

She had begun her life in Warrenton, Georgia. November 4, 1909, the only child of Rosa English and Joseph Hardwick, and moved with her family to Evanston when she was six. She attended the Evanston public schools, sang in the choir at Ebenezer AME Church where her father was a trustee and her mother was founder of several clubs. Following her graduation from Evanston Township High School, she entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn.

Emmaline at Fisk University c1930

She was proud and pretty, vivacious and spunky, intelligent, loving, generous, charming, and witty. Her friends in Evanston called her “Sandy.” Her classmates at Fisk University called her “Imp.” When she was sixteen, she fell in love with Edwin Bush Jourdain Jr., a fierce crusader for racial justice who would become Evanston’s first black alderman, and was still in love with him more than fifty years later when he died. She had four children, adored each of them, and talked about them all the time.

She loved life and people. She loved babies, everybody’s babies. She loved beauty and art and music. Above all, she loved singing, and with her lyric soprano voice, she became a member of the internationally known Fisk Jubilee Singers.

People knew her by her walk: little bit classical, a little bit jazzy, a little bit cool. She had fabulous legs and loved high-heeled shoes and, when as a teenager, I asked her how she could “walk for hours in those things,” she always laughed and repeated one of her mantras, “Beauty knows no pain.” When she was a teenager, she wanted to sing professionally and maybe become a dancer. Instead, she took care of three generations of her family and never complained. She had grace, and grace under pressure. Her name was Emmaline Hardwick Jourdain.

When I was a young girl, she always prefaced her opinions or information-sharing with ‘Gint’ – my father’s nickname– ‘says.’ While I was trying to grow-up as fast as possible, she loved saying ‘Gint’, he always has five children, meaning me, my three siblings and herself. If anything arose that needed solving, or punishment, she said, “Wait till your father comes home.” Mom declared she was “twenty-nine.” until I was about sixteen and told her that was becoming an embarrassment to me, that she have had to be twelve or thirteen when I was born. Laughing she said, “I’ll be thirty on my next birthday.”

I adored my father, but Mom put the warm, sunny glow in our lives. I was thinking the other day about the up-coming holidays, remembering that when I was a girl, Daddy was Santa Claus, many years transforming our rec-room and the basement corridor that led to it into a pine-bough fairyland. But Mom was always the spirit of Christmas, with holly pinned in hair.

The Hardwick family shortly after arrival in Evanston, c1915. Emma line, Joseph and Rosa. Shorefront archives.

Mr. DuBois, I’ve been reading The Souls of Black Folk and…

She loved our home and the beautiful pieces in it. Except for the times she wanted to go to the Club Delisa to hear Billy Ekstine, or the Rhumboogie to hear Sarah Vaughn, or to Ravinnia Park to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or to an elegant dinner party for the great tap dancer Bojangles, when I was a girl and dreaming of being off to Paris or Rome, the only other places that I knew that she wanted to go were to the movies with my father or to luncheons or small parties at the homes of friends. Friends whose phone calls or rings at the door she always answered with a delighted, “Hey,” as though she were receiving an unexpected present. She enjoyed company and setting an elegant table when dignitaries came to visit.

Although my father encouraged the participation of his children in these dinner table conversations, Mom rarely said anything. I thought Daddy’s friends thought her delightful, gracious, charming, a great cook and a lovely table decoration. However, over time, I noticed that she was taking much keener interest in what was being said.

Then one night after learning that W.E.B. DuBois, my father’s all-time hero, was again coming to dinner, I saw her in the living room reading. I asked about the book in her hand and she told me it was The Souls of Black Folk. I stared at her and then forgot it.

DuBois did not engage in small talk, nor was he a flatterer, and none of us kids dared intrude more than a sentence into his formidable intellectual zone. But then, after dinner, while we were having desert, Mom leaned a bit over the table, saying quietly, “Mr. DuBois, I’ve been reading The Souls of Black Folk and…”

I don’t remember the rest of her statement. In fact, I think I was too shocked to hear it. Daddy’s head had shot up and he was staring at Mom as though he had never seen her before. But DuBois had heard and was seriously considering what she had said, turning his attention full on Mom and speaking to her in exactly the same manner in which he spoke to Daddy. I sat spellbound, not by DuBois, but by Mom.

Another time sharply etched on my memory is coming home after my first year in college and being beckoned by her into the kitchen. “Nomie, [my nickname] guess what?”, she began. Her eyes were sparkling. “I have a job. It begins next week.” I stared. Mom with a Job? Although over the years, she had frequently told my father that she wanted a job, he had always said that she belonged at home with the children.

“What are you going to do?” I asked cautiously,

“I’m going to work in the payroll department at Great Lakes Naval station.”

I gasped. Mom had never paid a single bill and, except for the time Daddy had worked in Washington, she’d never even bought groceries. She had never had a checkbook and Daddy either took her or gave her cash whenever she bought clothes.

“Mom, what are you going to do there?”

“I’m going to be a clerk-typist.”

“But Mom, you can’t type.”

“Neither could you before you learned how,” she replied.

But soon, Mother found more things she could do. She began writing articles for her department’s bi-monthly newsletter – witty, intriguing pieces – that had personnel writing notes thanking her for the articles.

Then she was asked to write and edit the newsletter. She brought every one home proudly showing me the words on the mast head. “Emmaline Jourdain, Editor”.

After Wif [my daughter’s nick name] finished grade school, she and I moved back east, not to New York, but to Washington where my brother, Spence was then living. After my father died, Mom began visiting me twice a year: a month at Christmas and two or three weeks in the summer. She loved singing along with my CD’s, still loved theater, the ballet and musicals, and we went as often as I could afford, several times going up to New York to see a Broadway show which always thrilled her. And for one night she was a star.

I had gotten a ticket for Mom to see a Broadway show which I thought she would love. Spence took her up to New York, but she hated the show, saying to my stunned disbelief that “It was too vulgar,” that she wanted to go to a nightclub. A friend, Emme Kemp, whom I had known since her student days at Northwestern, had become a well-known pianist, appearing at swank and “in” clubs in New York and Europe. She had come to our home several times during our college days and sometimes Mom had sung along with her as she played our piano. She was then playing at a very “in” club just off Broadway. Spence took Mom to see her.

Emme called Mom to the mike. Mom demurred, but Emme insisted. Finally Mom walked to the stage, conferred a few minutes with Emme, then took the mike. She was eighty four, but her voice was still a pure lyric soprano as “Summertime” hushed her audience and, when she finished, brought everyone to their feet, shouting “Bravo.” At their applauding insistence, she gave them another song and then another before going back to her table where, to her amazement, several from the audience crowded around her, asking who she was, why they had not heard of her before.

Emme called me as soon as she got home and told me every detail of what had happened. When Mom got back to Washington the next afternoon, I told her I had heard that she had been singing in a nightclub on Broadway. Her face was radiant. “Oh, Nomie,” she said. “It was so wonderful.”

Emmaline Hardwick Jourdain, c1985. Shorefront archives

That would be my mother’s last trip to New York, to Washington; the last time she would leave Evanston. Within a year, my brother, Bud. called me asking to me to come home and help take care of her.

Years before, both Buddy and I had, separately, promised Mother we would never put her in a nursing home. And though at the time I believe neither of us thought such a time would ever come, it was a promise we were both determined to keep. I came home and, with the help of a part time care-giver, especially Nita Davis, I was with Mom for nearly seven years. She became paralyzed and almost blind, but even as her descent into Alzheimer’s deepened, her spirit never waned. Buddy got up twice every night to turn her with such surgical precision that she never had a bed sore. I made up singing games to play with her, and though I can’t carry a note, she entered into them, cheering me with her delight, inspiring me with her bravery, her spunk and, most of all, with her faith.

In addition to her staunch support of her husband’s career, Emmaline Jourdain was active in many community organizations including: The Hardwick Guild, which was founded by her mother for the young women of Ebenezer AME Church, The Women’s Missionary Society of the church, The Community Hospital Auxiliary, and The Toppers who were active in civic causes. She served as Worthy Matron, Pride of the North, Number 61, Order of the Eastern Star in 1973 and a member of the Board of Stewards of Ebenezer Church.


Note: This slightly edited article first appeared in the original, quarterly Shorefront Journal, Vol 3 no 1, 2001 authored by Rose Jourdain, the daughter of Emmaline and Edwin Jourdain, Jr.

Hands of Time: Hands on Pageantry

—by Dino Robinson

The Hands of Time: Bobby Caldwell, Barry Young, Lenard Perkins and Billy Giles.

. . .Look to this day!
For today your child has became a Woman!
A Beautiful  B L A C K  Woman! . . .
—Excerpt from “Miss Black Evanston” 1971-72, composed
by Maryland L. Williams and Morris McCorvey

Four men with aspirations to join the ranks of the many singing groups, made their stamp in history in a venue that was far from the music industry, in sponsoring a beauty pageant.

Four Evanston Township High School friends, Billy Giles, Bob Caldwell, Barry Young and Lenard Perkins shared in their interest in singing. After Giles and Caldwell served in the army, they formed a singing group known as the Devotions in 1967. One day, while the group was walking down Dempster Street, they stopped in front of a clock store. Inspired by the display, the group changed their name to the Hands of Time.

For the next several years, the group performed in local and Chicago metro area clubs and venues. Because of obligations to work and raising families, the group never devoted the time and energy needed to go further. “After many performances, we came out of it with $200, split between the four of us”, Mr. Young shared.

The Hands of Time performed at the former 1623 Club, Bobby Jones Club, venues in Chicago. The group also organized a singing venue at the former Student Lounge once located on Church Street and Maple Avenue. The headliner for the event Sonji Clay, the then ex-wife of the late Muhammad Ali.

It was at one venue in Chicago where the group came upon a request to sponsor a pageant. It was early 1971 after performing during a womans’ “society” club event where the group was approached and asked if they may be interested in sponsoring a competition in the North Shore. The winner of the pageant would then compete in the Miss Black Illinois pageant, then from there, advancing to Miss Black America pageant to be held in New York.

The Hands of Time took on the task, and they only had less than six months to pull it off. Under the name H.O.T. Production, short for their group name, they passed out flyers to Northwestern University Students, Evanston Township High School, and National Teacher College.

“The ladies group gave us the information of what criteria was needed for the ladies. They had to be in high school or college and from this area only. And they had to be under 21.” Said Mr. Young.

In the end, H.O.T. Productions attracted around 25 applicants that were narrowed down to 14 contestants: Joyce Ashford, Vernetta Bell, Linda Bowman, Sandra Childress, Rose Maria Eady, Betty Hill, Eva Holland, Loretta Lewis, Joyce Newman, Linda Jean Paul, Carola Payne, Debbie Pemberton, Bertha Pride and Earlene Spotsville were the final contestants for the first Miss Black Evanston pageant.

Throughout the coming months, the young ladies had an instructor that guided them in form, presentation and pageant venues. Eleanor Frazier, who for years had been working with the NorShore 12 cotillions, also helped in the process. Sponsors came from the Student union, the Foster Club and the 1623 Club and the final event was held on July 25, 1971 at the Orrington Hotel in downtown Evanston.

The events formal program, like most pageants, consisted of Music from Fred Hunter Jr. and his Orchestra, the opening procession of contestants, evening gown and swimsuit review and performance by the Hands of Time.

The event was documented in multiple issues of the Chicago Daily Defender, the North Shore Examiner, the Evanston Review, Chicago Tribune and the CCC Newsette. The CCC was quite excited about the event:

Unknown publication

“. . .Never before has Evanston seen such a spine-chilling event as the H.O.T. Productions’ Miss Black Evanston Beauty Pageant. Judges simply had to be hard-put to decide on the winners. So diversified were their presentations that judges would have been justified in selecting any one of them.
We Learned that by a very narrow margin, . . . they announced to the suspense-filled audience of 300 or more patrons that the lovely Joyce Ashmore was their choice for Miss Black Evanston of 1971.”

Miss. Ashmore, a student at Emerson College, would go on to compete at the Miss Black Illinois that would be held the following month at the Playboy Towers. There she would finish as second runner up to a contestant from Chicago, Illinois. Miss Ashmore, an aspiring poet read one of her piece during the Evanston event entitled “The Black Woman’s Struggle to Adapt to the Changing Realities of Being Black”, with the ending verses:

My character has been molded to fit the survival needs of my people.
So I will change once again to fit their needs.
Mine will be a role of continual change, ever growing with my people,
Assisting them on their way, rather than becoming a stagnant burden.
So, too, must the Black man change.
We both must re-examine and re-define our roles,
For WE have a commitment for the future.
—Joyce Ashford

Though the event was a successful event, in the end, the Miss Black Evanston Pageant would be its first and last pageant from H.O.T. Productions. As Mr. Young simply stated, “We had the best event that year, among the other groups. But for some reason, we were not invited to participate the following year. That ended the effort. . .”. The Hands of Time continued to perform from time to time after the pageant. However, today it is just a memory left back at that time to be replaced with family and careers. There were only a few home recordings of the group, but none exist today.


Images: Hands of Time, courtesy of Mr. Barry Young. “Miss Black Evanston”, August 1971, Publication unknown.
Source: Interview of Barry Young conducted by Dino Robinson at Shorefront, September 27, 2014. Miss Black Evanston program book. The Daily Defender, Monday, August 7 and 9, 1971; The North Shore Examiner, August 2, 1971; The Evanston Review, August 5, 1971; Concerned Citizens Commitment (CCC), 1971. “Miss Black Illinois pageant dazzles Playboy Towers audience”, Daily Defender, August 21, 1971, p. 19.

Shorefront update #009

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.

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.


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 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.

Juneteenth: Celebrating and Honoring a Heritage

2016 Juneteenth celebration in Evanston

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a day of celebration or… jubilation. A day filled with: Entertainment, recreation, reflection on education and self-improvement, guest speakers and prayer services. A time where we recognize and honor our elders. . .and our youth.

But lets think back for a moment here and reflect on how Juneteenth came about. Imagine with me if you may:

June 19th, 1865. Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas with news for the community: The war had ended and that all who were enslaved are now free. Keep in mind that this news arrived two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

Slavery was allowed in Southern Illinois

Union enforcement in Texas was negligible and was unable to enforce the Executive order until after the surrender of General Lee in April 1865 and stronger Union forces arriving in Texas. Read to the people of Texas was General Order Number 3, which began with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this news ranged from shock to immediate jubilation. With nowhere to go, former enslaved Blacks choices were few; remaining where they were or migrate to other parts of the country – as – free – people.

Many families migrated to the North Shore directly from the south and from Canada immediately after the Civil War. And to think, Illinois was almost a slave state. Before 1865, one could not really be a “free person of color” in Illinois as the Black Codes were in effect that kept a person of color as a registered indentured person. Slavery was allowed in Southern Illinois.1

Violetta Cullen delivering the speech
Violetta Cullen delivering the speech

I think about Maria Murray, Daniel Garnett and Hettie Corn before 1865- and other families that arrived shortly after the end of the Civil War –George Robinson, Nathan Branch, Andrew Scott of Evanston; The Mathews family in Lake Forest; the Calhoun family in Kenilworth; the Smith family in Wilmette; the Wilson family of Glencoe … Their struggles, life stories, tenacity and perseverance… and with luck… they lived and forged a new history as – free – people.

In this early history here on the north shore, these communities had:
Established five churches (and we celebrated)
Established Evanston Sanitarium – Hospital (and we celebrated)
Established Emerson Street YMCA (and we celebrated)

Early in our history on the north shore, this community had:
Fought Jim Crow (and we persevered)
Fought segregation (and we persevered)
Organized dozens of civic and social clubs to combat injustices and service our community (and we persevered)

Our local communities have accomplished much throughout its history on the North Shore. We have made history. And we should celebrate.

16-182-001So we celebrate Juneteenth, celebrating African American freedom, achievement, self-development and remember that we must show respect for all cultures. As Juneteenth celebrations continue across this nation, the events that have transpired back in 1865 in Texas, will not be forgotten. For all of our roots tie back to this fertile soil from which many were delivered to, worked on, built on, and we all should celebrate, a national day of pride that is embodied as Juneteenth.


Note: A public speech written by Shorefront staff for two separate Juneteenth community celebrations in 2015 delivered by Dino Robinson and in 2016 delivered by Violetta Cullen.
All photographs by Evanston Photographic Studios.

  1. Douglas Harper, “Slavery in the North