History of Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum

In November 2006, the following people came together to incorporate the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Foundation: Rudy Davenport (President), Archie Lawrence (Treasurer), Barbara Dickman (Secretary), Cullom Davis, Peter Boltuc, Orville Ewing, Douglas King, and Richard Bowen, Jr. These incorporators were joined by Founding Members: Jerrie Blakely, Margaret Collins, Robert Gosa, Edwin Lee Jr., Edie Lee Harris, Mary Jane Logan and Lee Patton. The Foundation obtained federal tax exemption for contributions, through Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The Foundation began an Oral History Project, collecting first person histories in the Springfield area. Cullom Davis, Professor Emeritus of UIS, trained and led a dozen volunteers, with support from Terri Jackson, Director of the Multi-Cultural Center at UIS and Katheryn Harris, Director of the Illinois State Historical Library. This Project collected over 65 oral histories, with 45 transcribed; these oral histories are now hosted on the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and are available to the public.

After this successful effort, the Foundation decided to establish the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum (“AAHM”). In February 2012, this Museum opened at 521 E. Washington Street, across from the old State Capitol. The Museum original Board included Jerrie Blakely, Linda Bollensen, Peter Boltuc, Richard Bowen, Rudy Davenport, Cullom Davis, Robert Davis, Barbara Dickerman, Orville Ewing, Richard Hart, Douglas King, Archie Lawrence, Edwin Lee Jr., Mary Jane Logan and Dr. Victoria Johnson. This Museum received significant financial support from Robert Church, Carolyn and Curtis Farrar, Fletcher Farrar, Dr. Matthew and Dorothy Holden, Robert Moore, Charlotte E. Johnson Jackie Rice, Austin and Mary Hardy-Randolph, Beverly Helm Renfro, Robert Sill, Sheila Stocks-Smith and Union Baptist Church. The Museum established its goal as the education of residents and visitors to Central Illinois about the African American experience, through research, collection, preservation, and interpretation of this experience.

In March 2016, the Museum opened at its present location: 1440 Monument Avenue, Springfield, Illinois.