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Courtesy of:



Champaign County African American History Committee

African American History In Champaign County

African Americans in Champaign County have created a rich and interesting history. A Champaign County census shows that the "first wave" of African American migration (late 1860s through 1880) resulted in an increase from 48 African Americans in 1860 to 233 in 1870 and to 462 by 1880. Later, in the early twentieth century, African Americans migrated from border and southern states seeking jobs in the industrialized northern society. Since the primary mode of travel was by train, and Champaign County was located along major railway routes, both major migrations resulted in African Americans deciding to reside in Champaign County.

Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americans in Champaign County were mostly limited to railroad, domestic, and day labor jobs. Many however, successfully owned farms or established their own businesses such as barbershops, stores, and cleaners.

The church was a primary institution for African Americans to achieve social independence and stability. The two earliest churches in Champaign County were Bethel A.M.E. Church founded in 1863 and Salem Baptist Church founded in 1866. Another institution established for the social welfare of Champaign County African Americans was the Douglass Community Center, built in 1945 in response to social segregation and inadequate recreational facilities for African Americans.

The significant contributions that the African American community has made to the development and stability of Champaign County are evident in many aspects of life. From business to arts to religion, this American heritage is alive and thriving.

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