African American Oral History tapes now on line through Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

 Prominent Springfield residents share stories of segregation, community life and other topics from the early 20th century onward
Springfield, IL – Stories of segregation, community life and other topics told in their own words by prominent members of the Springfield African American community are now available on-line through a partnership between the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) and the Springfield African American History Foundation (SAAHF).  The interviews may be heard by visiting the ALPLM’s Oral History website link at
“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is not merely about the Sixteenth President but the larger story of Illinois and its citizens,” said State Historian Tom Schwartz of the ALPLM. “These interviews advance our understanding of the lives of African Americans and the significant contributions they made to better our lives and Illinois.”
        In 2006, 32 oral histories were donated to the ALPLM by the SAAHF. Since then, volunteer interviewers have increased the number of interviews that are available in the Library’s Audio-Visual Department to over 50. With funding from various sources, the ALPLM and SAAHF have transcribed a portion of these, and are now placing these transcripts, and the audio interviews, on-line. The initial web release includes 15 interviews, with others to follow as transcribing is completed.
Some of the topics that are covered include African American family life, discrimination in the workplace and education, African American businesses in Springfield, civil rights activities, religion, the 1908 Springfield Race Riots, African American sororities and fraternities, Dreamland Park, Springfield police and fire departments of the 1940s and 50s, hotels and restaurants that existed east of Eleventh Street, and the famous bands and singers who performed in Springfield but had to stay with local families because they were barred from local hotels.  Several of the interviewees were involved with the lawsuits against the City of Springfield and Springfield School District 186 regarding discrimination, which resulted in the change to the city’s aldermanic form of city government and school board representation. 
The SAAHF began communicating with Springfield natives in October 2003, hoping to gather oral histories of local African Americans. From these first interviews, those involved in the SAAHF gained enthusiasm and determination concerning this compelling part of Springfield’s history that had, until then, been ignored.  The SAAHF continues to gather oral histories from Springfield African Americans. 
The oral histories of the following may now be accessed on-line:  Bettie Allen, John Crisp, Theresa Faith Cummings, Theodore (Ted) Curtis, Rudy Davenport, Jessie Mae Finley, Marian Richie Goza, Robert Goza, Georgia  Hale, Leroy Jordan, Charles Lockhart Jr., Clarence Senor, Peggie D. Senor, Carmelita Hogan Washington, and William Washington.
The oral histories of the following people are available in the Audio-Visual Section of the Lincoln Presidential Library, and many will be going online in the near future:  Rosia Lee Adams, Donnita Barton-Davenport, Charlotte Berry, Elbert Betts, Charles Branham, Laurence Brown, Velma Carey, Charles Carter, Ruth Carter, Dorothy J. Foster, Inman Foster Jr., Teresa Haley, James R. Helm. Beverly J. Helm-Renfro, Vivian Irwin, Ida Jackson, Ruth Jackson, Charlotte Johnson, Jacqueline Johnson, Yula Jones, Johnetta Jordan, Faith Logan, Gaynell McCrary, Preston McCrary, Connie Wade McGee, Wesley McNeese, Frank McNeil, James Merrifield, Vera Merrifield, Victoria Nichols-Johnson, James A. Pendergrass, Terry Ransom, Jerome Reynolds, Veronica L. Robison, Dr. Donald S. Ross, Edna Ross, Georgia Rountree, Edna Shanklin, Paula Stadeker, Helen Suggs, Susan Taylor, Laura Belle (Foster) Van Buren, J.D. Washington, Irene Willis, Norman Willis, Charles Wilson, Jenrose Wilson, Lavonne Wilson, Allan Woodson, Janet Woodson, Lillian Woodson, and John Work.