Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch

Champaign Public Library Douglass Branch

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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.

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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.”

Champaign Public Library:




  • Frederick Douglass


  • Champaign, Illinois

Additional Champaign Trail Sites

Social and Religious Life

Emancipation Day Celebrations

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.


Civil Rights, Social Justice, & Politics


The J.C. Penney Boycott and Picketing Campaign

During the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans fought for equal opportunity in employment across the nation. In Champaign-Urbana, the Champaign-Urbana Improvement Association (CUIA) was founded to demand greater job opportunities for African Americans, resulting in one of the most influential local civil rights victories known as the J.C. Penney Boycott.


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.


Edward A. Green

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.


Social and Religious Life

St. Luke Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) Church

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.


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