Shorefront Update #010

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First three publications under Shorefront Press

Shorefront’s 2017 year was filled with activities, avocation, national forums and new partnerships. New acquisitions, the 5th installment of the Black History Month Lecture Series, participation with institutions from around the country and engagement with the schools have increased Shorefronts visibility and discoverability.

Shorefront Archives

As an active collecting repository, new items added to the archives come from former alderman Delores Holmes, former School District 65 superintendent Joseph Hill, OPAL, Jack and Jill North Shore Chapter, items from the Graves family and campaign materials from Evanston’s April ward and mayoral elections. In addition, Shorefront has conducted over a dozen oral history sessions.

Shorefront recently partnered with the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, MA to digitize 93 documents from the Edwin B. Jourdain Jr. collection housed at Shorefront. The documents will late be uploaded to a digital repository portal and eventually ingested to the UMBRA Research site. UMBRA specializes on important documents related to the African American communities across the country.

In 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 5th 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.

Poster_2017Lecture one was Abbeville, South Carolina to Evanston and the Long Road to Recognition and Reconciliation. Lecture two was Pan-Africanism: Cuba and the Fight Against Colonialism. Session three was The Black Vote: What Just Happened—and What Do We Do Now? Sessions were held at Sherman United Methodist Church and at the Evanston Levy Center and was attended by over 175 participants.

The new traveling exhibit “Legacies” has grown from 10 to 15 panels. For 2018, Shorefront will produce five new panels. The growing, multi-panel focuses a snapshot of historic and contemporary residents and organizations throughout the North Shore. In 2017, the panels were displayed at the Evanston History Center and soon at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

During the 2017 Evanston NAACP installation of new officers, Shorefront presented an interesting early account of the local chapter activities utilizing newspaper headlines and the community members engaged in fighting early Jim Crow in Evanston.

Shorefront is in its second-year grant cycle with 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 Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. To learn more, visit

With the “Museum Grants for African American History and Culture”, Shorefront officially launched Shorefront Press — our publishing arm. Three books have been published: The Dream Dancers: New England Preservers of the Dream 1620-1924, by Spencer Jourdain; True Colors: Evanston Through Our Eyes, by ETHS 2017 Senior Studies students; and Edwin B. Jourdain Jr: The Rise of Black Political Power in Evanston, Illinois1931-1947, by Dr. Sherman Beverly. All of these books are available at Shorefront, Squareup Market and

With the “National Leadership Grants for Libraries”, Shorefronts partnership with the Amistad Research Center, the South Asian American Digital Archive, Mukurtu, and the Inland Empire Memories Project of the University of California-Riverside was completed. As partners, we assembled a series of four forums where Evanston for the host for the third forum in May, 2017. All Forum activities are archived at

Families come in to both donate items and research their family legacies.

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.


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

—By Doria Johnson


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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) edicate-lynching-marker-anthon y-crawford-abbeville-south- carolina

The Evil of Lynching Exposed (Huffington Post) entry/the-evil-of-lynching-exp osed_us_5802960ae4b0985f6d1571 f7

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

Nathan Branch: Early Evanston Settler

— by Rhonda K. Craven

Nathan Branch, edited from a group photo of postal workers c1900. Photo by 20th Century Studios
Nathan Branch, edited from a group photo of postal workers c1900. Photo by 20th Century Studios

After the Civil War, a number of blacks moved to Chicago and then to Evanston. Among them were men such as Daniel F. Garnett, Green A. Bell, Andrew Scott and William Ender. Some worked for prominent businessmen and politicians, while others started a variety of entrepreneurial endeavors. In 1870, many of these and others were listed in the Evanston census with their wives and children.

Born a slave in Virginia

Nathaniel Branch, more commonly known as Nathan, is in this number. Born a slave in Virginia to Esther and Nathan Branch in 1828, he had three brothers. His family was split up several times, and he lived in Kentucky and Tennessee, working for different plantation owners. He was a defiant slave who ran away briefly when he was 17, and he had several run ins with his masters over the years. Eventually, he became an overseer at one of the plantations.

When Branch heard about the war, he and his wife escaped to Columbus, Kentucky, where he found the 134th Illinois Infantry Regiment, as well as Green Bell, another slave who had also escaped. They served as cooks for Company D and in 1864, they were mustered out at Camp Fry in Chicago (the Clark/Diversey/Broadway intersection).

Branch worked two years as a waiter at the Sherman House (Randolph between Clark and LaSalle) in downtown Chicago. He learned to read and attended night school during this time. His first wife had died. He came to Evanston ca. 1867 and worked for various local families. After he married Ellen Gordon of Nicholasville, Kentucky, who had a daughter, Mattie, they continued growing their family. Nathan transferred his church membership from Olivet Baptist in Chicago to the Baptist church in Evanston on July 4, 1869. A Miss Wheeler taught him to write.

In November, 1872, after the Baptist church building had been moved from another location, half the floor collapsed during worship, and many members fell into the basement. Nathan was sitting next to a window in the gallery with other members and visitors. He decided to break through and jump out the window. The next day, he paid for the window repairs.

1705 Lake Street. Photo by Rhonda Craven
1705 Lake Street. Photo by Rhonda Craven

Branch, along with Bell, were appointed as lamplighters in July of 1873. A year later, the Evanston Index reported that Branch had brought the first dray (a cart) to town and was “ready to haul to order anything from a box of peaches to a load of lumber.” He was the sexton at the Baptist church and felt privileged that he could ring the bell. Nathan had an express company at Oak Avenue and Church Street near the train depot. The family purchased a home at 1705 Lake St. (now an Evanston landmark) in 1879. He was a participant in the union prayer meeting held at the Presbyterian Church and led a session that same year.

In December, 1880, during his first trip to the South after he had escaped slavery, Branch visited family and friends in Kentucky, including an aunt who had raised him after he was separated from his mother during his teen years. After he encouraged Jordan, one of his brothers, to move to Evanston, Jordan began his own express business.

The Branch family was well-respected in the community

In the summer of 1882, he and other black Baptists participated in union services with black Methodists in a room over the post office on Davis Street west of Chicago Avenue. Branch reported in an Index item published October 14, 1882 that the Baptists voted to organize as a mission on September 29 after the Methodists voted to establish their own church. During the November 8th Baptist church prayer meeting, Nathan and his wife Ellen were among ten black congregants to request letters of dismission, which they received a week later. The new church was established on November 17 with 20 charter members. It’s been said that Nathan named the church since it was indeed the second Baptist church in Evanston!

For at least 30 years, the two churches continued varying degrees of fellowship. First Baptist provided its facilities, counsel, financial and community support as needed, in part because they still saw Branch as “our brother”. He was invited to the church’s major anniversary celebrations, during which a poem written for the occasion mentioned his service at First Baptist. That ongoing closeness, however, is cited as a reason for the very public church split in 1894 that led to the establishment of the Berean Baptist Church, now known as Mount Zion.

The Branch family was well-respected in the community. At Second Baptist, he was a deacon and a trustee. In 1888, the post office hired him to carry mail to and from the trains. Soon after, he became the special delivery letter carrier, a familiar figure with his horse and buggy. Ellen and daughter Helen were dressmakers. Sons William and Robert were cooks who later worked for the railroad. Ida was a servant in private homes. Mattie had married George Brown in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1881, and she was an active churchwoman.

A September 1889 fire destroyed the schoolhouse that had served as the church building for six years. In spring, 1890, the congregation purchased an edifice from Second Methodist in North Evanston and planned to move it to a lot Branch owned on Wesley Avenue between Lake and Grove Streets, near his home. He and other church leaders petitioned the village to make this move, but his neighbors wrote a passionate counter-petition, citing the potential fire hazard (the fire department was ill-equipped) and damage to shade trees (house movers had destroyed many of them).

In October, 1890, the congregation sought to purchase from Northwestern University the original lot on Benson Avenue (the current church location) NU had leased to them in 1883. The plan was to have NU purchase Branch’s lot on Wesley; the church would then pay the difference for the Benson lot and move the building there. However, NU declined the original deed in Second Baptist’s name because of property line issues. A revised deed, in Branch’s name, was approved soon after. By December, the church was worshiping in its 20-year-old “new” building on Benson.

Many details about Nathan’s family, his life as a slave, his escape and his time in Chicago and Evanston were included in articles that ran in the Index. At Green Bell’s death in 1890, Branch spoke at length about their shared experiences. In 1897, there was a two-part feature story about his life. Two years later, he went to Macon, GA to find his brother, Lee, after a local businessman met him there, but they were unable to connect. The paper recapped his career when he retired from the post office in 1902 and covered Ida’s wedding to John Sherrod later that year.

Nathan died on March 10, 1911, and the local papers published extensive obituaries. William, who died in 1929, was a cook on the railroad. Ellen was a faithful Second Baptist member through her death in 1934. Robert became a deacon and a trustee after he returned from Colorado. He also died in 1934. There is a photo of him in the church foyer gallery. Helen, who never married, was an organist and a longtime Sunday School teacher. She died in 1970. Ida, another active member, died in 1972. Her husband, John, had attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Robert’s son, Nathan, died in Evanston in 1975, while living in the family home on Lake Street with his wife and children.

Mittie Conner and Effie Setler, the daughters of Nathan’s brother Jordan, were also involved in Second Baptist’s ministries. Mittie’s daughter, Thelma, who graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1923, worked at Wieboldt’s for many years and was an assistant church organist. Effie’s daughter, Ione S. Brown, was a longtime church clerk and one of the first female trustees appointed at the church. After her death in 1973, the church’s scholarship fund was named after her in recognition of her commitment to help young people get an education, even though she didn’t have biological children of her own.

Although Nathan Branch came to Evanston nearly 150 years ago, his family’s influence is clearly woven into the city’s history!

Products and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

—By Dino Robinson


While William Twiggs was a locally, and historically well documented businessman and an active member of several organizations, little has been mentioned about his wife, Martha Twiggs. Family decedents mention that she had a home-based business, selling wigs for women made from natural hair first at Oak Avenue near Church Street in Evanston then later in a storefront next to her husbands print shop on Emerson Street. There, she marketed her own product, “Twiggaline”, a hair growth product.

In 1916, Madam C. J. Walker’s came to Evanston to deliver her Lecture on “The Negro Woman in Business” at both Second Baptist and Ebenezer A.M.E. Church.1 In her lecture, Madam Walker “Urges her Sisters to Rise above the Wash Tub and Cook Kitchen and Make a Place in the Commercial World.”2 One wonders if Martha Twiggs may have been inspired by the lecture and ventured off to follow the shared tenants from Madam C. J. Walker lecture. Shorefronts only wish is that someone may have a sample of the Twiggaline package or product today.

Several years ago, Shorefront began acquiring samples of contemporary “products” for Shorefronts archive that illustrate the entrepreneurial ethics of these North Shore communities. Which leads us to wonder . . . who we have not come across at this time that have produced their own product for distribution . . .

Carrying the tradition of Martha Twiggs today includes, Georgia Parker, Larry Alexander, Ashley Askew-Bell and former Evanston resident Lauryn N. Nwankpa, all have products geared to hair and skin care.

Lauryn, through her business Hair To There LLC, produces a product for natural hair care. She markets her product on line, at related conventions and other showcase venues. Recently, she redesigned her packaging and website and included an infomercial focused on natural hair care.

A degreed chemist, Georgia Parker has over 20 hair and skin care products under the name Ashley Lauren Products. Ashley Lauren at one time had a storefront on Davis Street in Evanston across from the post office. Now, focused on distribution, her products can be purchased on line and at a few retail outlets in the Chicago area.

Scrubfusion owner Ashley Askew-Bell, offers several body scrub products, beard oils and candles on her site for both men and women. Customers can also request custom orders for special events.

Patent holder, and former Salon owner, Larry Alexander, also known as Mickey III, developed an applicator instrument for laying relaxer in a clean and consistent manner under the name AppliTech. Video demonstrations showcase the proper use of his patent protected tool.

A couple of Food and edible products are offered by barbeque owner Hecky Powell and Chef Journey Shannon.

A chocolatier, Journey Shannon has a line of chocolates and other crafted editable foods under the name Noir d’Ebene, and can be ordered online, at select events, fairs and industry shows.

And of course, Heck’s Barbeque line of sauces, spices/rubs and most recently added, soda. The product can be found in retail, online and at his place of business. Proceeds from his “Juneteenth” soda sales, helps to fund projects through the family’s Forrest Powell Foundation.

Shorefront is sure that it is missing so many more entrepreneurs who have packaged products. Though this article focuses on products, we know there are some interesting inventors who lived in the North Shore area. Industrial Designer Charles Harrison who’s work with Sears has designed many iconic items. Evanston residents Delbert Alexander Sr. and Jr. both have created workable prototype machines (baseball and tabletop bowling). In the 1950s, Glencoe resident Asa Taylor prototyped what would lay the foundation of the modern hydraulic hospital beds used today . . . But that is another article and initiative in hopes to acquire prototypes if they still exist.



  1. Chicago Defender: “Will Lecture in Chicago”, January 29, 1916, p. 8; “Prairie State Events. . . ,” By J.R. Moore, Feb. 12, 1916, p. 5; “MME. C. J. Walker Royally Received Here”, Feb. 19, 1916, p. 2.
  2. Indianapolis Freeman, “The Negro Woman in Business”, September 20, 1913, p. 1.

The Grandmothers. . .My Queens: Laura Belle

—By Bruce Allen King

Laura Belle. Photo courtesy of Bruce Allen King
Laura Belle. Photo courtesy of Bruce Allen King

I have been blessed with having a very close and deep relationship with both of my grandmothers.

Laura Eubanks Hadley, born January 9, 1907 in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the daughter of John Eubanks. She never knew her mother and her father was, from all observation, a white man, but legally classified as a Negro because of that one drop of black blood coursing through his veins. John left his daughter in the care of relatives, one of which was her half-sister Ora Castleberry, who would later become an Evanstonian. Laura “Belle” wouldn’t see her father until her late-teens. She traveled to Pennsylvania and spent time with her dad while in route to Illinois to join her sister Ora in Evanston. Growing up as a farm girl, tending chickens, ducks, the garden, and honing the skills she would need later in life by also taking care of the household chores.

Grandma Laura was a short, slightly built, very light-skinned woman with freckles and straight auburn hair. She could neither read nor write, so she had to live by her very gentle spirit, her very humble nature and ability to perform hard work. She was well aware of who she was in society, but never hesitated to do whatever she had to do to better herself and others. She was a devout Christian and lifelong member of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Clark Street in Evanston. Her laughter was soft and she offered few opinions.

It is from my Grandma Laura that I was gifted with oral history

Arriving in Evanston in late 1927, she did odd housekeeping jobs, sometimes “staying on the place”, as a live-in housekeeper. Soon after she met and married Lawrence Michael Hadley, an Evanston High School graduate, charismatic, dashing and very street wise. Within the first five years of the Depression she bore four children: Norwood, Delores, Nadine and Peter.

Grandma Laura struggled against amazing odds; those of our racially troubled society, with great poverty and few skills to overcome it, in addition to a troubled and dysfunctional marriage. Despite it all, she never uttered a bad word against anyone. In fact, she would cease to talk when the conversation became negative and driven by deprecating gossip. If you came to her with negativity, she would, without hesitation, say, “Don’t come tome with that he said, she said, who shot John!” All got the message.

It is from my Grandma Laura that I was gifted with oral history. Her memory was phenomenal, many times down to the day and most times even remembering what the weather was on any given past event.

If the truth be told, I think all people have their favorites, even parents and grandparents. It was apparent who her favorite grand boys were. I was not one of them, but I NEVER felt slighted in anyway. Her love was that great and complete.

Grandma Laura had an intense love for gambling, particularly “the horses”. Her off days from “the place”, she and her friend and companion Roosevelt Reeves, aka “Toby”, would take us to Arlington Racetrack to the north and Washington Park to the south. Sportsman’s “trotters” were their least favorite, but would fill the need for enjoyment many evenings. The experience was one that has given me smiles and personal laughs to this day. I would watch with great joy at the gestures and animated conversation, as she and Toby would pick and choose the day’s winners. On those days when they would win “big”, the ride home was full of laughter, songs and ice cream cones.

On our family trips to Pennsylvania to visit her dad, whom she doted over with great pride and pleasure, she would show us the point where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers merged behind her dad’s tiny house. I would watch with wonder and listen, mesmerized, to her dad and his many tall tales. The one that has stuck with me all my life was the story about his coming to Pennsylvania from Virginia.

He, in a drunken brawl, killed a man and ran up into the hills surrounding McKeesport, PA to escape the law. On the road up into the hills, he was met by the constable who asked him if he knew of a man called John Eubanks. My great-grandfather replied, “Oh yeah, I know that ole nigga, he’s down the mountain.” Knowing that “John Eubanks” was classified a black man and him looking like a white man, he used this ruse to make his escape. My great-grandfather was eventually caught and served out his time on the chain gang and lived out his life without further trouble with the law.

Grandma Laura’s love was shared with countless Evanstonians

My grandmother, most of my life, went to night school at ETHS to learn to read and write. I remember her great excitement upon being admitted to night school when I was in the second grade. Despite the fact that she always had two jobs and many times three and four, she would never miss school on an evening she was not working. Her great desire to learn was apparent because she would forgo the night races in order to go to night school. But, know this . . . thanks to the local bookie at Jack Pass’s store on Church Street, she was able to get her bet in and still go to school.

Many, many years later, she called me with great excitement and joy in her voice. She was then living at Ebenezer Primm Towers and I lived across the alley on Garnett Place. She told me to come quick because it was very important. I ran across the alley to meet her at the back door. She took me into her apartment and asked me to sit. She went to her room and brought out her checkbook. I thought she wanted me to write out a check for her, something I had been doing for many years. Instead, she sat down with pen in hand and began to slowly write the needed words on her check. Finished she beam with great pride. I cried with joy and we celebrated with her favorite . . . a cup of extremely strong black coffee.

Years after that, I graduated from college. My grandmother was sitting on the couch when we arrived at my dad’s for the graduation dinner. . . which I was tricked into cooking. As I entered and gave her my obligatory hug and kiss, she handed me a ballpoint pen with a congratulations card. I said thanks and read the card. I said thanks again and was about to move to greet others when she asked me, “Brucie, do you know why I gave you a pen?” I told her that I figured it was because I had graduated. She said, “Yes Brucie, but more importantly, you can read and write and because you can, you should always carry a pen with you”.

Grandma Laura’s love was shared with countless Evanstonians of all ages, races and socio-economic status. She would introduce herself to those she shared bus rides with, telling them proudly of her “boys”, Roy Jr., Bruce, Dion, Brian King and Joel Hadley.

Of all of my relatives and loved ones who have passed on, Grandma Laura has been the closest to an angel I’ve yet to meet. I am truly the better for all of my encounters and circumstances in life, because of her.

Shorefront Memories #004

Bonus Thompson (center), circa 1914. Courtesy of Linda Varnado
Bonus Thompson (center), circa 1914. Courtesy of Linda Varnado

Bonus Thompson, from Bcauedan (Greenville), South Carolina and his wife, Leithe, from Georgia, migrated from the south to Evanston and lived at 2242 Dewey Avenue from about 1909 to 1910. Mr. Thompson was employed as a “tinner” at that time. A tinner generally shaped and molded with tin. It was used in a variety of applications. A common usage was in ceiling tile–some of which you can see as original or as reproductions in store fronts today.

1910 U.S. Federal Census, Evanston, Illinois
1910 U.S. Federal Census, Evanston, Illinois

By 1914, Mr. Thompson ventured into his own business and opened Bonus Thompson Hardware, located at 1910 W. Railroad Avenue, now Green Bay Road in Evanston. It was approximately one half block north of Emerson Street before its reconfiguration. The hardware store offered stove and furnace repairs, parts, tin and metal work.

His wife, Leithe operated the business after her husband’s death in 1929 for an additional six years. After it closed, a grocery store opened in its place.

There are two interesting observations to make about this photograph unrelated to the hardware store. The first is a hard-to-read banner in the window advertising the “101 Ranch Wild West” rodeo show that came to town August 24, 1914. The other is the reflection of a railway engine that appears to be on ground level across from the hardware store. In looking closely at photographs, it is an extra bonus to find information that might lead to new research efforts such as the 101 Ranch Wild West rodeo. . .


— By Bruce Allen King

Q. B. Frazier, plasterer
Q. B. Frazier, plasterer

Coming from a family that was grounded in Marcus Garvey’s theories of self-respect self-reliance and self-sufficiency, there was never any talk of “I can’t”, “I don’t know how” and “It can’t be done”. What I know now to be encouragement was, to a youth of 4, 5 or 6, more akin to abuse and denial. Being “post-depression era” children of “depression era” parents, meant you learned how to fix things and learned to think 3 or 4 times before throwing anything away.

My very first job in the family business was to pick up all loose nails and to straighten any and all of them out that could be salvaged, to be used later.

My family, on my father’s side was in the construction business. My grandfather, Arthur Chester King, from Abbeville, South Carolina was a carpenter, who after being run out of town amid threats against his life, came to Evanston and settled here, making a home for himself and soon after his arrival, marrying Ella Childs on September 28, 1916 at 1107 Emerson Street. Together they had a family of nine, 5 boys and 4 girls.

Arriving here in 1913, before the digging of the Sanitary District Channel, he chose the West Side of Evanston, Dodge Avenue in particular, to build his home. So, in 1916, my grandfather began building his empire. His first house was at 2031 Dodge Avenue. Northwestern University was expanding and with the work there, there was also demolition. The door frames and windows of his first house came from such expansion/demolition, not to mention framing lumber. It was also a place of work for a few of the “colored” tradesmen.

Because of the times, particularly Jim Crow, it was essential that my grandfather align himself with other “colored” tradesmen. At that time, he was aligned with Black plumbers, Black electricians, Black plasterers, Black bricklayers and Black laborers. Many, many of the houses, churches and businesses in the 5th Ward were built, moved in, converted, enlarged and repaired by this consortium of Black tradesmen. In addition to “tradesmen”, there were businesses; grocers, butchers, ice-men, coal men, lawyers, accountants, teachers and people who filled in for most other professions needed. We “made do” in a lot of situations.

They were teetotalers for the most part.

Black Evanstonians, understanding that they had only themselves, the families of the tradesmen, their church members, neighbors and those they knew in Abbeville, Due West, and McCormick, South Carolina, went about building what they knew. . . “The Village”. With the abundance of land, every house had a garden next to it and in the case of my family, we had a very large community garden. My grandfather was a very good friend of the patriarch of the Perrin family, Miller, a friend from Abbeville, S. C. In fact, my grandfather introduced Miller to the woman who became his wife and the mother of his 13 children, 9 boys and 4 girls. In fact, the “community garden” was on Simpson, on the north side of the street between Dodge and Brown (now Bridge St.) where the park is today. Miller Perrin had horses and wagons and plowed the fields where the larger gardens were and the “community garden” was first every season. What I remember most fondly of the Perrin enterprise were the fall and winter wagon rides along the “Bridle Path”, which was an old fire break that traveled the length of the wooded area next to the Channel on the Evanston side from Greenbay Road all the way to Main Street.

On my family property was two Bartlett pear trees, an apple tree, grapevines, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, peanuts, chickens, pigeons, rabbits, a cow and a personal garden with corn, cabbage, collards, mustards, turnips, spinach, beans, peas, peppers, onions, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, hollyhocks, roses, lilacs and marigolds. My grandmother salt cured meats, put up preserves and wintered over root vegetables. There was always enough to share.

The days and evenings were for working and preparing for work. The tradesmen would get together and confer, inform, plan and do whatever was necessary for one another to make it through another year. These gentlemen networked long before the term came into vogue. Remembering how truly gentle and civilized they were is awesome. They were teetotalers for the most part. They were all very quiet and pretty soft spoken, unless there was eminent need to raise your voice. There was always a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order somewhere close. But, what I find most fantastic was their sense of humor. In the life of the “Villager” there was something only the villagers understood and that was signifying. To some, it would be considered a form of mean sarcasm, but to most it was way more circumspect. To be able to signify well was a much valued and greatly honored art. It was as much for building up and redress as it was for tearing down and pointing out and correcting those actions, words and thoughts of the ones targeted. Few, if any were beyond being signified on. Most didn’t like it and the only ones who really appreciated it being done, were beneficiaries of the good that came from it. . . truly they were rare.

Today when I travel Dodge Avenue, from Simpson to Church Street, or from Greenbay Road to Hartrey, I am truly humbled at what my grandfather, my father, my uncles and the members of the my extended family accomplished for themselves and others by way of building houses, moving in houses, adding onto houses, fixing up houses and building a wholesome and viable community. In the chaos of today, I truly appreciate the rare gifts and principles that allowed them to thrive in an era of lynching and racial tensions. . . very similar to today.

I Believe I Can Fly: William “Wild Bill” Holmes

— By Kimberly Holmes Ross and Brittany Estell, Esq.

B_Holmes 3_mod
Signature Move

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

—Leonardo da Vinci

William Allen Holmes was a pilot who acquired an appetite for flying. Not a pilot in the traditional sense, a man in a captain’s hat, white shirt, and pinned wings greeting you at the front of the plane, and responsible for getting you to your destination. No, that’s not “Wild Bill.” Bill’s airplane was a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and he was dressed in his denim, leather, a hat, and he flew! Feet standing on top of a two-wheeled pedestal, traveling at 10+mph arms stretched across the air, eyes wide open and the crowd going wild.

William “Wild Bill” Holmes was born in Columbus, Ohio, January 15, 1932. He ironically shares the same birthday as the great Martin Luther King Jr., both having a tenacious spirit, unwilling to give up on what they believed in, and unapologetically themselves.

Bill spent his early years between Columbus, Ohio, and Cokesbury, South Carolina. As a small child he loved everything on wheels. It was rumored that at the age of 3 he began “trick riding” on his tricycle. As a teen his zeal/zest for life came through bikes, motorcycles, and cars. Through his antics, he earned the nickname “Wild Bill,” never knowing what he’d do next on wheels. After high school he joined the United States Army 82nd Airborne where he jumped out of planes and was involved in live combat. He was honorably discharged with a Merit Unit Citation, a Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars and the United Nations Service Medal.

"Wild Bill" Posed on his bike
“Wild Bill” Posed on his bike

Upon on returning to the states he joined his mother in Evanston, IL, where he explored many professions, including: Clayton Marks, Evanston Bus Company, the City of Evanston – Sanitation Department, Jewel Food Store which all led to him to owning trucking company “Holmes & Sons Trucking.” Even with the many jobs he took on he always made time for his first love, his Harley. Wild Bill was a “Harley Man” who began to teach himself to do tricks and stunts on his bike. One of the first tricks he learned was the legendary “wheelie”, a stunt where you pull the bike up and ride on one wheel. He was known for doing it for blocks! In fact, he had been recorded performing the stunt at a little under a mile. What made this extraordinary was that because he rode a full size Harley, the bike was heavier than most bikes, making the stunt that much harder to execute. Once he accomplished this stunt, his passion and education for stunting took off!

Performing in front of audience
Performing in front of audience

He taught himself more and more tricks including the “slow drag,” “switch back,” “one-handed wheelie,” and “lazy boy.” As he attended and performed at field meets, rodeos, and drag races, people around the country began to know who he was and look forward to him appearing at many of their events. You could find him at rallys hosted by Hurry Kane Riders Motorcycle Club, C.T.M.C., Rough Riders Motorcycle Club, M.T.T., Apache Motorcycle Club, C. J. Harley Davidson, Mighty Romans Motorcycle Club, Magnificent Spoilers Motorcycle Club, Columbus Big Three MCC and many more. He became a legendary stunt rider and competitor who won hundreds of trophies; so many that my brothers and I often wondered if he was ever going to stop winning! Our basement was filled wall to wall with trophies, certificates, and awards, the more he won, the more we had to dust.

Although he loved touring independently he knew he could pursue his passion and make it his life’s work if he was able to obtain a sponsorship. As a loyal customer, he approached Harley Davidson. With his portfolio, references, and a vision in hand, he reached out seeking an endorsement. The powers that be at Harley explained that “Wild Bill” was not the image that was their interest and there was no market for a Black stunt rider. A few years later they signed Evil Knievel.

This obstacle did not stop or discourage him. No, this only fueled his fire. He went on to sponsor his own motorcycle meets and tour around the country supporting other Black riders and their events. He was among the founders of “The Untouchables Motorcycle Club.” Formed in the 1960’s, The Untouchables were a group of Black motorcyclist in the Evanston community who did not limit their activities to cycling, but also provided toys for children at holidays, hosted picnics, field meets, and other community gatherings. The group was active through the 1990’s.

Back view of vest
Back view of vest
Front view of vest
Front view of vest

In addition, as a member of the American Motorcyclists Association, he helped organize the National Bikers Roundup in 1977 encompassing a group of African American motorcycle clubs. The round up is a five-day event where attendee enjoys exhibits, vendors, stunt shows, entertainment, and a host of other motorcycle-related experiences. “Wild Bill” attended every round up, many times as a performer, until 2007.

One of my most cherished memories of my dad is when he rebuilt a 1973 Super- Glide bike by hand in our basement. When he finished, everyone wondered how he planned to get it out. The bike was huge while the stairs and door were narrow. It didn’t faze him; he rode it right up the stairs into the back yard, it was like magic! Today, that bike is still in running condition, and sits in our garage, like a plane waiting on its pilot.

William "Wild Bill" Holmes
William “Wild Bill” Holmes

August 2007 William Allen “Wild Bill” Holmes took his last ride, 1,046 miles round-trip. He rode from Evanston, IL to Kansas City, MO, for the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club National Bikers Round Up. October 18, 2007, he transitioned and completed his flight log. No longer flying on his Harley, but now soaring with angel wings, he left us with the reminder, “if you believe in yourself, you can fly too.”