Category Archives: African Americans

Comer Cox, Urban League leader

Comer Cox, the namesake of Comer Cox Park in Springfield, was an Alabama native and star athlete in his  youth who went on to lead the Springfield Urban League. Comer Lane Cox was born May 9, 1905, in Athens, Ala. … Continue reading

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The Krehbiel murals (Illinois Supreme Court)

The first public art Albert Krehbiel created apparently was on the buggies, carriages and delivery wagons his father manufactured in Iowa. His most famous works, however, are the 13 allegorical murals that decorate the Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield. … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Architecture, Arts and letters, Buildings, Illinois capital, State government | Leave a comment

New Dennis Williams portrait (a detective story)

This article first appeared in the November 2021 edition of Historico, the newsletter of the Sangamon County Historical Society. You can become a Historico subscriber: see below. Dennis Williams was a rarity in 1880s Springfield: a successful African American artist … Continue reading

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Dennis Williams, crayon artist

  This entry, originally written in 2013, was greatly expanded and corrected in 2021, thanks to the research of Mary Frances of Springfield. See “Contributor” note at end. Update: There is an update to this entry. See New Dennis Williams … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Arts and letters, Business, Prominent figures | 2 Comments

Engine House 5 (“the colored firehouse”)

Engine House 5, 1310 E. Adams St., was known as Springfield’s “colored firehouse” from its construction in 1901 until after its fire company moved to a new building in 1954. “The Springfield Fire Department routinely gave Five the worst of … Continue reading

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Mumblety-peg slaying, 1889

Theophilus “Moonlight” Waldron was a 15-year-old orphan, living on the streets and by his wits, when he stabbed to death a man over a game of mumblety-peg. Waldron (1874-?) was sentenced to life in prison for murder, a judgement many … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Crime and vice, Journalism, Law enforcement, Media | 1 Comment

Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

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DeWitt Smith Building fire, 1918

When the DeWitt Smith Building caught fire in 1918, modern firefighting equipment saved the building, and a heroic elevator operator rescued many of its tenants. Even so, the top floors of the building, on the southeast corner of Fourth and … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Architecture, Auto dealers, Buildings, Disasters, Local government | 2 Comments

First African-American mail carrier

When Charles Ellis Sr. was appointed a Springfield mail carrier in 1890 – the first African-American to hold the job – his predecessor refused to show him the route, and the Illinois State Register erupted with a racist personal attack … Continue reading

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Ruth Ellis, lesbian activist

Ruth Ellis was an openly lesbian woman at a time when that was almost unheard of, the first 40 years of her life in her hometown of Springfield and for 60 more years in Detroit. She became celebrated in 1999, … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Ethnic groups, Prominent figures, Women | 2 Comments