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VIRTUAL: Hidden Stories

The History of African Americans in Champaign County
Sat, Feb 19, 2022
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Join us for a discussion on the Champaign County African American Heritage Trail. Learn about plans for the project and hear some of the many untold stories of African Americans in Champaign County.

The Champaign County African American Heritage Trail is currently under development through the sponsorship of the Visit Champaign County Foundation. Angela M. Rivers and Dr. Barbara Suggs Mason serve as co-chairs of the committee made up of community volunteers that is planning for the Trail. They will describe the plans for the project and share some of the many untold stories of African Americans in Champaign County.

Historically, the County has always had a vibrant Black community of individuals and families who lived lives of dignity and grace despite the barriers of segregation, racial prejudice, the Ku Klux Klan, and the lack of opportunities that they encountered, often on a daily basis. The African American Heritage Trail will encompass over 170 years of history from 1850 to the present. Through Reconstruction and the Great Migration, through the Depression and two world wars, through the Civil Rights era and up to the present day, the Trail will celebrate their often hidden and incredible stories – stories that unfolded right here in the middle of East Central Illinois.

To learn more about this project or to submit images related to the project, please visit:

About the presenters

Barbara Suggs Mason, Ed.D. worked in the Illinois public education system for over 35 years. Barbara taught a variety of levels in the school districts of Champaign, Evanston, and Oak Park, and as an adjunct instructor at several Chicago area colleges and universities. She is a recipient of an Award of Merit from the Illinois State Board of Education for her work as a classroom teacher. For the development of a Black history curriculum based on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, she received the Bishop King Award from the Black History Committee of the Archdiocese of Chicago. She served for 16 years in the south suburban area as a principal, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and Superintendent of Schools. Currently she is a part of the New Leaders Mentor Program of Governors State University where she mentors new school principals. A graduate of Champaign Central High School, she attended Northwestern University to pursue her musical studies and also received her masters and doctorate degrees here at the University of Illinois in Music Education, Voice Performance, and Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.

Angela M. Rivers is an artist, educator, historian and museum professional, Angela Rivers spent over thirty-five years in teaching, supervisory, managerial and consulting positions in museums and in the cultural arts arena in Texas, Central Illinois and the Chicago area; including Educational Director and Assistant Director of Curatorial Services at DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago and teaching African and African American Art at Eastern Illinois University. A graduate of the Champaign school system, her family has been in Champaign County since after the Civil War. She is the granddaughter of Allen Albert Rivers, Sr., noted as the first African American on the City of Champaign's Police Department. She was Artist and Project Coordinator for the mural "The Pictorial History of African Americans in Champaign County" that formerly graced a building at Park and 5th Streets. She holds a BFA in Painting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a Certificate of Arts Administration from the University of Illinois, Springfield.

Photo: Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, c. 1900. Courtesy of Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Collection, at the Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet, Illinois.

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Adults | Presentation, Discussion


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