WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Shining a Light on Hidden History in Galesburg

Feb 8, 2016

Knox College has started a project that aims to uncover the history and stories of Galesburg's African-American community.

The objective is to collect numerous artifacts and mementos from the city’s African-American past and digitize them for future generations to view and use in research. The project is called "Struggle and Progress: Documenting African-American History in Galesburg, Illinois."

The college’s Laurie Sauer is in charge of the project. She said items can include more than just newspaper articles. And they don’t necessarily have to be published reports.

“That could include letters or diaries or other manuscript items that are not published,” Sauer said. “It could include items that are from churches, like event programs. Items from social clubs. There were several African-American social clubs that were very active in Galesburg in the early 20th Century."

Sauer would also like the archive to include family photographs and other personal items. She's hoping to provide a more accurate and deeper picture of what the African-American community was like as far back as the early 1900s.

“The dominant culture institutions have historically neglected minority communities in the items that they collect,” Sauer said.

Sauer said around 250 artifacts have been collected since the project started at the beginning of the year.  She anticipated spending a year-and-a-half working on it.

The project is being funded in part with a $10,700 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.