African American Heritage & History is an Official Web Site of the Illinois Office of Tourism
African American History & Heritage in Illinois
  • African American History and Heritage
  • African American History and Heritage
  • African American History and Heritage
    Photo credit: Bruce Wicks
  • African American History and Heritage
    Photo credit: Louis Byrd
  • African American History and Heritage

A heritage that has a home in Illinois.

Illinois' rich African-American history and heritage is a celebration of spirit and a discovery of soul.

Explore stations along the Underground Railroad traveled by slaves en route to freedom. Play at the only children's museum of its kind. Take in performances by a theater company that explores the African-American experience while working to eradicate racism. Hear the sounds of legendary artists at historic venues.

From the Great Migration and its immense cultural and social impact on Chicago, to the Lovejoy Monument memorializing the abolitionist, Illinois is home to an array of sites that celebrate the African-American people, traditions, and sacrifices. Learn about the stories that celebrate the heroism and the innumerable contributions by African Americans. The soul of Illinois awaits you.

African American History & Heritage Destinations
Chicago & Beyond
Bronzeville Children's Museum
Located in the Calumet Heights community of the South Side of Chicago, Bronzeville Children's Museum is the first and only African-American children's museum in the United States. Learn about the contributions, culture and heritage of African Americans through activities, interactive exhibits and programs.
9301 S. Stoney Island Ave, Chicago, IL
ph: 773-721-9301
Black Ensemble Theater
The Black Ensemble Theater is a dynamic organization described as a local cornerstone, a national treasure and an international success. It has launched over 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists since its inception. Annually 50,000 patrons experience its musical theater and it has become one of the most prominent African-American theater companies in the nation.
4440 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL  •  773-769-4451
Byron Museum of History/Lucius Read House
The Byron Museum Complex consists of a large Exhibit Hall and the historic Lucius Read House, which is a listed site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
110 N. Union St., Byron, IL  •  815-234-5031
Dusable Museum of African American History
DuSable Museum shares African-American history though a variety of impactful traveling and insightful permanent exhibits, educational programs and special seasonal celebrations. Visit, learn and enjoy. Ongoing exhibits include: "Red, White, Blue & Black: A History of Blacks in the Armed Services" and "A Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story."
740 E. 56th Pl., Chicago, IL  •  773-947-0600
eta Creative Arts Foundation
Incorporated in April 1971, ETA is recognized as one of Chicago's leading African-American cultural performing arts institutions. It has garnered a national and international reputation for the quality of its artistic product, its management, volunteer leadership and community involvement.
7558 S. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL  •  773-752-3955
Ethnic Heritage Museum
Six nationalities that helped shape the cultural region are represented in this home museum, built in 1850. Located in the heart of the old water power district, the house features a room for each ethnic group it represents: African American, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Hispanic. Call to confirm hours and admission fees.
1129 S. Main St., Rockford, IL  •  815-962-7402
Graue Mill and Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mill is the only operating waterwheel gristmill and one of three authenticated Underground Railroad stations in Illinois. The exhibit "Graue Mill and the Road to Freedom" uses photographs, documents, a computer interactive system and additional displays to illustrate the issue of slavery.
3800 York Rd., Oak Brook, IL  •  630-655-2090
Harold Washington Library
The Harold Washington Library Center is one of the world’s largest municipal buildings and an architectural gem. Visit the children’s library or beautiful Winter Garden, browse through the blues and jazz collections, or attend one of the many special programs in the library’s theater.
The library was named in honor of former Mayor Harold Washington, the first African-American mayor of Chicago. The library has appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest public library building in the world.
400 S. State St., Chicago, IL  •  312-747-4300
Kankakee County Museum - African American Exhibit
See George Grey Barnhard exhibits, a one-room schoolhouse, the historic 1853 home of Dr. Len Small and special exhibits scheduled throughout the year.
801 S. 8th Ave., Kankakee, IL  •  815-932-5279
Mother Rudd Home Museum
This original 1844 building was once a stagecoach stop, tavern, post office, town hall and candy store. Completely restored by the Village of Gurnee, this historical home is reported to have been part of the Underground Railroad. Slaves would be housed in the basement or the barn. View artifacts from the Civil War, see the "Crystal Ballroom" where traveling guests would be entertained, and the room dedicated to the family of a local man that died on the Titanic.
4690 Old Grand Ave., Gurnee, IL  •  847-263-9540
A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum
The museum’s permanent collection displays exhibits about the Pullman historic district, the great migration, American labor history, A. Philip Randolph, the Pullman Porters and the American civil rights movement.
10406 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago, IL  •  773-928-3935
Sheldon Peck Homestead
Come see the home of Sheldon Peck, a nationally recognized primitive folk art portrait painter. In August 2011, the Sheldon Peck Homestead was inducted into the Network to Freedom, a list of verified Underground Railroad locations.
355 E. Parkside, Lombard, IL  •  630-629-1885
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
The Woodson Regional Library houses the largest African-American history and literature collection in the Midwest. The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature contains a wealth of precious documentation of the black experience. The collection places a strong focus on African-American history in Illinois.
9525 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL  •  312-745-2080
Mt. Glenwood Memorial Gardens
Mt. Glenwood Memorial Gardens is the first African-American cemetery in Illinois and has been in existence since 1920. This cemetery is the burial site of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s famed leader, and Fred "Duke" Slater, the first African American elected to the National Football Hall of Fame.
18301 Glenwood-Thorton Rd., Glenwood, IL  •  708-758-5663
Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation (FMR. Chess Records Studio)
2120 S. Michigan Ave. is one of the most famous addresses in all of American pop history. Former home of the legendary Chess Records label from 1957 to 1967, 2120 housed the studio and recording company that begat legendary recordings by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Aretha Franklin and dozens of others.
2120 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL  •  312-808-1286
Chicago & Beyond
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Explore the history of African Americans in the United States from the Civil War through emancipation. With President Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Civil War became a war both to save the union and to abolish slavery. Learn about the 180,000 black Americans that served in the Union Army.
212 N. 5th St., Springfield, IL
ph: 800-610-2094
African American Civil War Soldiers Monument
This unique monument is one of only a handful of sculptured tributes to the African-American Civil War soldier in the entire United States. Commissioned by the City of Decatur, the work was designed and created by renowned artist Preston Jackson.
300 Block of N. Water St., Decatur, IL
The African-American Cultural & Geneological Society of Illinois Museum (AACGS)
AACGS promotes and provides resources and education on the history of the African American. Embracing all cultures, it offers genealogy workshops, museum displays, storytelling, essay and poetry contests, and the promotion of Cultural Arts.
314 N. Main St., Decatur, IL  •  217-429-7458
Preston Jackson Statue in Union Square Park
This 10-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture represents Springfield’s “hidden history” — the Springfield Race Riot of 1908. Created by Peoria sculptor and artist Preston Jackson, the sculpture was dedicated in April 2009.
East side of Union Park, 500 E. Madison, Springfield, IL
Underground Railroad Driving Tour
Sponsored by the Underground Railroad Committee Bus Tour
Opens Spring 2012
Jacksonville was one of the many stations along the Underground Railroad and one of the busiest during the mid-1800s. Jacksonville has at least nine documented sites which were important to this endeavor during the years before the Civil War.
Jacksonville, IL  •  217-243-3755
Woodlawn Farm
This is the showcase homestead of Jacksonville’s network of nine documented Underground Railroad homes. Woodlawn was settled in 1824 by Michael Huffaker and his wife from Kentucky. Former slaves were ushered through this home on their way to freedom.
1463 Gierke Ln., Jacksonville, IL  •  217-243-5938
Chicago & Beyond
Linmar Gardens
Take a guided tour of the breathtaking 3.5-acre gardens which include seven water features. View the crown jewel of Linmar, a sunken garden created within the foundation of the Union Baptist Church, the first African-American church in the region.
504 S. Prospect St., Galena, IL
ph: 815-777-1177
African American Hall of Fame Museum at the Proctor Recreation Center
Come visit Peoria’s museum dedicated to honoring the achievements of its African Americans and other persons who have had an impact on the African-American experience. The museum is also developing plans for how it will be represented in the new Peoria Riverfront Museum, slated to open in fall 2012 in downtown Peoria.
309 S. DuSable St., Peoria, IL  •  309-673-2206
Alton Museum of History and Art
Discover the local history of Alton and the Civil War, and see exhibits devoted to Abraham Lincoln, Robert Wadlow, Elijah P. Lovejoy, the Underground Railroad, nineteenth-century toys and Mississippi River steamboats.
Through the exhibits, we share with you our past and present so that you too may discover the people, places and events that influenced our ancestors and continue to shape our destiny.
2809 College Ave., Alton, IL  •  618-462-2763
Dr. Richard Eells House
An early Quincy physician and leading abolitionist built this two-story brick house, which was an Underground Railroad site from 1835 to 1846. The Dr. Richard Eells House is the oldest standing two-story brick home in Quincy.
415 Jersey St., Quincy, IL  •  217-223-1800 to arrange a tour
J.E. Robinson Underground Railroad Tours
Explore the Underground Railroad and learn how the Alton community helped slaves cross the Mississippi River to the free state of Illinois.
2708 Powhattan, Alton, IL 62002  •  618-462-5590
Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial
A champion for freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom from slavery, Elijah P. Lovejoy was an active supporter of the organization of the Anti-slavery Society of Illinois and established the Alton Observer as an abolitionist newspaper.
Alton Cemetery (Monument & 5th St.), Alton, IL
New Philadelphia Town Site
Founded by Frank McWorter in 1836, New Philadelphia was the first U.S. town platted and registered by an African American. The New Philadelphia Association actively works to preserve the Town Site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009.
295th Avenue, Pike County
Owen Lovejoy Homestead
Tour this important station on the Underground Railroad where Owen Lovejoy, a famous abolitsionist, lived. The home is rich in history and houses many artifacts. Built in 1838, this house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
U.S. Route 6 and Illinois Route 26, Princeton, IL  •  815-879-9151
Thebes Courthouse
Legend says that Dred Scott, a slave whose Supreme Court decision set back black rights by declaring that African-American slaves had no claim to freedom, may have been imprisoned in the Thebes Courthouse jail.
Oak and 5th St., Cairo, IL  •  618-764-2658
Chicago & Beyond
African American Museum of Southern Illinois
The museum continues its work of revolving exhibits that portray outstanding achievements of African-American citizens, skills, trades and heritages. Permanent exhibits include collections of African art and slave artifacts. Rotating displays have included the Underground Railroad message quilts and local art work.
1237 E. Main St., Carbondale, IL
ph: 618-457-2217
        Celebrate Black History
Fifty Years Forward: Birmingham to Atlanta to Selma – a Civil Rights Exhibition
Diversity Program presents Black History Month 2014 Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act Exhibit and Programs
“People Get Ready” Celebrating Black History Month
Meechy Monroe
Follow our blogger, Meechy Monroe, as she travels throughout Illinois to experience the rich African-American heritage found throughout the state.
Pat Quinn, Governor Adam Pollet, Acting Director Jennifer Hoelzle, Deputy Director Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity