Category Archives: African Americans

Dr. Sheppard A. Ware, physician

Dr. Sheppard Anderson Ware (1872-1948) was a physician in Springfield for 40 years. He was also was a member of the Sangamon County Medical Society and additionally worked for the Illinois State Department of Health. Born in Brownsville, Tenn., Ware … Continue reading

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National Emancipation Monument (proposed)

A statue of a black Civil War soldier was to be the centerpiece of a National Emancipation Monument that African-American residents of Springfield hoped would be erected in the city. The effort, which lasted from 1889 to 1893, ultimately was … Continue reading

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Doc Helm, photographer

Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm, whose striking photographs documented African-American life in Springfield for 50 years, started his career as the man responsible for raising and lowering the flag over the Illinois Statehouse. Helm (1911-94), who grew up in Mount Vernon, … Continue reading

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Widow’s letter, 1841

Letters recently acquired by the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library show how one Springfield widow struggled to make a living in the 1840s. The story of Dorothea Grant also illustrates how some employers treated their African-American servants at the … Continue reading

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Maj. George W. Ford (Camp Butler superintendent)

Maj. George W. Ford was a rarity – an African-American who held a supervisory position in early 20th-century Sangamon County. Ford (1847-1939) also was an outspoken opponent of the Ku Klux Klan and racism, a friend of both W.E.B. DuBois … Continue reading

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First African-American juror in Sangamon County

The first black person to serve on a jury in Sangamon County may have been Thomas Flynn, a barber, on March 18, 1873. Flynn wasn’t the first African-American called to jury service in the county, but an earlier attempt – … Continue reading

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Douglass Community Center

The Douglass Community Center offered civic, social and educational opportunities to African-American residents of Springfield when most similar organizations were closed to blacks. The Douglass center (apparently named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass) opened in 1926. It was phased out as … Continue reading

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Centennial Co-Operative Educational Congress, 1918

Black Springfieldians observed Illinois’ 100th anniversary in 1918 with a three-day conference examining the status, progress and prospects of the state’s African-American community. Some 3,000 people attended the Centennial Co-Operative Educational Congress, held Sept. 22-24, 1918, at the Illinois State … Continue reading

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Harry Taylor, first black firefighter, police detective

Harry Taylor (1861-1928) was Springfield’s first African-American firefighter, but became better known as a Springfield police officer and detective. Positions on both the police and fire departments were patronage appointments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Taylor was … Continue reading

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‘Murder by abortion,’ 1946

A Springfield osteopath was convicted of murder after allegedly conducting an abortion that led to the death of a 19-year-old woman in 1946. Ronald U. Tilley (1897-1966) was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but the Illinois Supreme Court overturned … Continue reading

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