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Salem Baptist Church

Technology in the 1970s and 1980s

Alvin Griggs

Introduction: Changing neighborhood dynamics

In the early 1960's a hard-fought struggle to integrate housing in Champaign-Urbana began to bear fruit. Prior to the 1960's most new sub-divisions were created with explicitly racist covenants that prohibited African-Americans from living within them. In 1964 the Council for Community Integration, a citizens' group led by a mixture of community members and University people began achieving first informal and then written assurances that racist renting and selling practices in the housing market would be phased out. In 1964 Barr and Squires became the first white real estate company that officially stated they would show houses to all citizens.

Although housing did not become integrated over-night, it had a noticeable effect on Champaign-Urbana's African-American community.  As part of a 2005 WILL documentary on the desegregation of the Champaign School District, Champaign High School teacher Alvin Griggs remembered:

"The changing of the housing situation, which allowed blacks to purchase homes all over the community, had the biggest effect on me and when that happened, blacks started moving all over the community. And they moved out in the Centennial area and other areas in the community and that made a difference in the schools."

Salem Baptist Church parsonage

Housing changes effect technology needs at Salem Baptist

As Champaign-Urbana's African-American population began to have opportunities to live and work throughout the cities, Salem confronted the crisis of transitioning from a neighborhood church to a city-wide church. 

Reflecting on the history of Salem Baptist Church on the eve of the Church's 110th anniversary, Rev. W.H. Donaldson remembered: 

"There has been quite a change in the atmosphere for black people in these communities. In, 1949-50 virtually every member of Salem Baptist lived within walking distance of the church at 500 East Park. Now, the membership is spread out all over the cities. The parsonage for example, is at 1712 South Prospect. We provide bus transportation to services." (As quoted by Chuck Flynn, 1976)

On January 4, 1974 the church purchased its first vehicle, a 12-passenger bus selected by Rev. James Offutt to be purchased from Rantoul Motors for the price of $2675. The bus was a huge success. So much so that in October 1979 the church upgraded to $13,119 bus. In 1992 the church upgraded once again, selling its old bus to New Hope Fellowship Church in Alton and purchasing a 15-person van from Shelby Dodge in Champaign. 


Salem Baptist Church



Salem Baptist Church. "History of Salem Baptist Church." Unpublished history. 1993.


Youth Media Workshop. "More Than a Bus Ride: Desegregating Champaign Schools." WILL Public Media. 2005.


Chuck Flynn. "First Column." The News-Gazette. October 17, 1976.