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.
Image credit: Intersection of Neil & Main, Champaign County Historical Archives
Frederick Douglass’ Visit to Champaign
Frederick Douglass visited Champaign on February 15, 1869, at Barrett Hall, located above what was Henry Swannell's Drug Store, now One Main Plaza. His topic was Self-Made Men. It was reported that, “His wit was keen and sparkling, his humor dry and effective, and his logic and argument as clear as that of the most polished orator in the land.” Champaign County Gazette, February 17, 1869, page 1📍
Image credit: Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch
Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch
The Douglass Center Library was organized in 1970 to serve both Urbana and Champaign, a joint project of the two cities’ libraries, Lincoln Trail Libraries System, and the Champaign Park District. The Library was named for Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist and journalist who escaped from slavery and became an influential lecturer — including at least one stop in Champaign. 📍
Image credit: Source Unknown
Dr. Ellis Subdivision
The Dr. Ellis Subdivision, developed in 1961, is located in northeast Urbana. It is the third single-family subdivision created for African Americans in Champaign-Urbana after Carver Park in 1951 and Crispus Attucks Place in 1953. The subdivision was originally just outside city limits on undeveloped farmland. Today, the subdivision is situated in the historically African American North End neighborhood, between Wright Street to the east and Goodwin Avenue to the west, and Eads Street to the south and Bradley Avenue to the north. The Dr. Ellis subdivision was named for Dr. Harry D. Ellis, born December 31, 1894, to Charles and Carrie Ellis in Springfield, Illinois. 📍
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Image credit: News Gazette
Cunningham Township Murals
The Cunningham Township building (205 W. Green St., Urbana) includes two murals by Langston Allston on either side. One side depicts people sharing a book, while the other side depicts people sharing a guitar. In 2022, Allston led the installation of both murals with support from about 20 community members.
Lift every voice and sing
Your story matters.
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