Reaching Stellar: The Public Good

Liz Alexander (BA 1995 Political Studies) and Nell Clay (MA 1993 INO) at the Springfield African American History Museum

The Springfield African American History Museum (AAHM)

Every day UIS contributes to the Public Good through excellent alumni who carry out acts of professional and volunteer service to make the world better.

Nell Clay (MA 1993 INO) and Elizabeth Alexander (BA 1995 Political Studies) are two of these stellar alumni. Nell is President of the Board of Directors at the Springfield African American History Museum, and Elizabeth Alexander is a Board Member, Volunteer Chair, Facebook Administrator and Recording Secretary for the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum (AAHM) located at 1440 Monument Avenue, Springfield IL. View a gallery of images from the museum here.

The Public Good is a Reaching Stellar Campaign priority and encompasses all that UIS does for the community, from local to global. Learn more about this campaign priority here.

Excerpt from UIS Lunch and Learn presentation

The following italicized excerpt about the Museum is from Elizabeth Alexander’s presentation at the UIS Lunch and Learn event, “Celebrating Culture & History,” at UIS on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

Our Passion for African American History

We do what we love with excitement and energy and a great desire to fulfill our mission, strengthen our vision and always with accuracy and honesty honor our values. Our future is bright and exciting and open to you to join with us to become a thriving entity bringing many peoples together in one historic venture.

When you visit the Springfield Illinois African American History Museum, we want to educate and inspire you. We want you to learn about African American people’s past and yearn with us for our future. We want you to comprehend the grievous struggle we have endured and celebrate the glorious successes we have accomplished despite oppression, and despite the overt and the subtle discrimination we have experienced. We have only one part time paid employee but look at us grow!

Exhibits at the Museum

  • The New Philadelphia Exhibit
    Frank McWhorter, originally called Free Frank, had already bought the freedom of his wife, Lucy and several children and relatives when he moved to Illinois. In 1836, he bought land, established a town, and sold plots. This town was licensed by the State of Illinois as “New Philadelphia” in 1836, with Frank selling land to whites and blacks who built homes there. It is our understanding that this was the first town licensed by a black man in the country.
  • Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm, Springfield Photographer
    This exhibit portrays photographs taken by Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm of ordinary African American daily activity in Springfield in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s You will see children at a birthday party and a dentist plying his trade. We catch sight of celebrities visiting Springfield (say Joe Louis and Martin Luther King) and a farmer working his land.
  • United States Civil War Colored Troops
    This fascinating exhibit prepared by Bob Davis reveals the United States Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War. You will see letters from the troops and some pictures of them with their regiments. It just so happens that my great-grandfather was a soldier in the 115th Regiment, USCT infantry. My uncles and thousands of others fought in WWI and WWII and in Korea. We are just like you, loving our country and longing to be free and treated with dignity.
  • Additional exhibits
    We have had an exhibit about the founding black churches in Springfield of which many are still thriving and praising God. Some of these churches are over 100 years old. My own church, Zion Missionary Baptist Church, is celebrating its 180th anniversary this year. We have shown the art of an Preston Jackson, an internationally known African American artist from Central IL. Our newest exhibit, MLK 50, is in commemoration of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King in 1968, and can look for the opening of “Early African American Pioneers in Central IL”. We are thankful to the Sangamon County Historical Society for sponsoring this exhibit.

Outreach and Events at the Museum

AAHM holds many events during the year, including visits by school groups, presentations throughout the community (including two to correctional facilities) and special presentations at the museum. Upcoming events include:

  • Reading and Discussion of Dr. King’s Speeches
    April 7 @ 1:00 p.m. and April 10 @ 10:00 a.m.
    Union Baptist Church, 1405 E. Monroe Street, Springfield Illinois
  • Non-Violence and Activism Workshop
    April 19, 2018 @ 6:00 p.m.,
    African American History Museum, Springfield, Illinois
    Robert Moore, retired US Marshall will lead a workshop for local youth groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Outlet and others.
  • Reading of Dr. King speech made in Springfield on October 7, 1965
    Scheduled for October 2018
    Presented by the Springfield Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity