Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch
504 E. Grove St., Champaign
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. 📍
For five years, the Douglass Center Library occupied a room in the Douglass Community Center at 801 N. Sixth St. In 1972, the library began to operate as a branch of the Champaign Public Library. In 1975, Urbana discontinued its involvement in the project for financial reasons. The following year, the Branch was moved to a small building at 310 E. Bradley Avenue.
The existing 6,074-square-foot Douglass Branch Library opened in June 1997 with space for 10,000 items. The building was designed by Olsen + Associates and constructed at the south end of Douglass Park at 504 E. Grove Street. The facility was jointly funded by the Library, the City of Champaign, the Illinois State Library, the Champaign Park District, and the Champaign Public Library Foundation.
Frederick Douglass: In Remembrance, a work of art by Preston Jackson that stands near the entrance to the Douglass Branch, was commissioned by the Champaign Public Library Foundation and dedicated August 14, 1999. It was funded by gifts from the Friends of the Champaign Public Library, area business, and donors from the community, and in part by a Live and Learn Construction Grant from the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
Text and Image Credits:
Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch. “History.” https://champaign.org/about/history
Champaign Public Library: https://champaign.org/
- Frederick Douglass
- Champaign, Illinois
Additional Champaign Trail Sites
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📍
Social and Religious Life
President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. For many years afterward, in or around September, African Americans would congregate at parks and other community spaces for Emancipation Day celebrations. These celebrations were held in Champaign, Homer, Tolono, Sidney, and other parts of Champaign County. Celebrations often included food, music, and dancing.
Edward A. Green, a freeman, became one of the first African Americans to settle in Champaign County in 1856. Born in North Carolina, he moved to West Urbana (now Champaign) from Union County, Ohio, with his first wife, Georgia Anne, and daughters, Anna A. and Florence E. Green. A carpenter by trade, in 1858 he began purchasing parcels of land throughout what would become Champaign and into northwestern Urbana, ending up with approximately 14 lots. Six lots were located in Urbana between Wright and Goodwin Streets, along Eads and Champaign (now Vine) Streets.
Walter Thomas Bailey was the first African American to graduate with a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1904, and he was the first licensed African American architect in Illinois. He contributed to the Colonel Wolfe School in Champaign as a young man, and later enjoyed a successful and influential career leading architectural projects throughout the United States. Bailey assisted with the design of the Colonel Wolfe School at 401 E. Healy in Champaign. The Colonel Wolfe School was constructed in 1905 as a public elementary school. Named after Colonel John S. Wolfe, captain of the 20th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, the building was designed by the architectural firm Spencer & Temple from Champaign. 📍
Albert R. Lee was born on June 26, 1874, on a farm outside of Champaign, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois in 1894, and in 1895 he became the second African American hired at the university. He started as a messenger, but then became the clerk for the Office of the President. Lee served under six university Presidents. At a time when African Americans were not allowed to live on campus, he took it upon himself to assist them with housing and maneuvering through school, becoming known as the unofficial Dean of African American Students. 📍
Social and Religious Life
Located at 809 N. Fifth Street in Champaign, St. Luke C.M.E. Church was established in 1901, making it the third-oldest historically African American congregation in Champaign County. Originally located on Eads Street in Urbana and called St. Luke Tabernacle Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, it was renamed in 1954 to Christian Methodist Episcopal. The church moved to its current location in 1914. 📍