Image Credit:
Bethel AME Church (Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Collection, Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet, IL)

Celebrate the hidden and incredible stories

Right here in East Central Illinois

Champaign County African American Heritage Trail

Discover over 170 years of rich cultural history and building community. Through Reconstruction and the Great Migration, through the Depression and two world wars, through the Civil Rights era right up to the present day, learn the powerful stories of African Americans who directly shaped the place we call home.

The mission is to educate today’s residents and visitors about the rich cultural history of a people whose stories have been largely unrecognized. Our vision is to inspire conversation, expand understanding, and contribute to a better society.

Explore the Trail
101 E. Washington St., Champaign

Image credit: Experience Champaign-Urbana

Community

Sports & Recreation

Skelton Park

Skelton Park, a pocket park at the corner of N. First Street and E. Washington Street, is designed to pay homage to Champaign County's history of locally, nationally, and internationally recognized African American musicians.

South Homer Lake Road off Route 49

Image credit: Homer Historical Society

Sports & Recreation

Homer Park

Briefly known as Riverside Park, Homer Park was an amusement park north of Homer that ran from 1905 to 1936. It was created by William B. McKinley of the Interurban and C.B. Burkhardt to encourage ridership on the transit line. African Americans utilized the park for picnics, barbecues, band concerts, dances, orations, fraternal gatherings, swimming, and fishing. The Bethel A.M.E. Church of Champaign organized Sunday school events, and residents congregated for religious revivals and church outings. African American baseball teams and jazz bands also played at Homer Park.

510-512 E. Grove St., Champaign, IL

Image credit: Left: Douglass Center, c. late 1940s, Champaign County Archives, Urbana Free Library, Urbana, Illinois │ Right: Douglass Center, Courtesy of Champaign Park District

Community

Sports & Recreation

Douglass Park and Douglass Center

The Park and Center are named for the great African American orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. In 1941, the Douglass Community Service Committee began an effort to raise funds for a new complex, to be built on two empty lots. Ground broke in 1944 and the Center was completed in 1946. The Center held classes in art, music, and sewing, among other activities. Athletics included adult softball, baseball, basketball, track, and tennis. The Center hosted many social events. One of the groups that brought national recognition to the Center was its Drum and Bugle Corps and Drill Team. In 1975, 200 residents protested the decision by the Park Board to demolish the old Douglass Center and replace it with a new gym. The group advocated for the old Center to be replaced with a new, full-service, comprehensive Center. After much discussion between the community and the Park Board, the “old” Center was torn down and a new Center was constructed. It opened on December 12, 1976. In March 1978, the Douglass Annex opened with a focus on senior citizens, and in 1997 the Douglass Branch Library moved into its current site.

Did you know…

Image credit: Urbana Park District

Social Life

King Park

King Park (915 W. Wascher Dr., Urbana) was established in 1967. Since then, the park has grown in size, and amenities include the Jettie Rhodes pavilion and a gazebo. It is named after the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Events

Image Credit:
Salem Baptist Church (Homer Historical Society)

Lift every voice and sing

Your story matters.

Submit local history, buildings, or events to include on the Trail.

We want to hear from you!