Research Guide

There are many places to look in Champaign-Urbana for primary source documentation on African-American history. On this page you can find brief descriptions of some of the different collections that are publicly accessible in area libraries, archives and museums.

1) Urban League Archive

The Urban League of Champaign County began in 1961 and officially closed its doors in 2008. One part of its archive was donated to the Champaign County Historical Archives (CCHA), Urbana Free Library, in 1994 by then director Vernon L. Barkstall. A second portion of the Urban League Archive was transferred to the CCHA in 2009 and 2010 and is currently being cataloged.

The Urban League Archive contains documentation of Urban League activities, both locally and on the state and national levels; records of other local activism groups; many photographs of Urban League and community events; scrapbooks; and personnel files. Also includes CDs, VHS and DVDs of Urban League events and programs produced for public-access television

Size: 15-20 cubic feet


Urban League Archive Finding Aid.

2) Phillip M. Rowell Collection

Philip Rowell was a local video and media producer and activist who was born in 1951 and passed away in 1997. In addition to producing videos, Rowell also edited the Champaign County Voice, a local African-American newsletter, in the late 1980s. His widow, Betty Taulese Nesbitt Rowell, donated some of his videos and papers to CCHA in 2002. There is no finding aid for the collection in the whole, but portions of it can be found through the following links:

Philip Maurice Rowell

3) Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive for Cultural Diversity

Mrs. Doris Baker (Wylie) Hoskins, was born October 18, 1911 in Champaign, Illinois, and passed away in September, 2004, in Champaign, Illinois. She served for many years with the Committee on African-American History in Champaign County of the Early American Museum (now the Museum of the Grand Prairie), serving as the group's archivist. She was also active in the Champaign County Section of the National Council of Negro Women Her collection of historical material was transferred to Cheryl Kennedy upon her passing, and are currently made available at the Early American Museum, Champaign County Forest Preserve District. A portion of her papers are also to be found in the CCHA. Doris Hoskins papers document all aspects of local African-American history, but are especially strong in terms of documenting family and women's histories, education, churches and early history. Of special note are scrapbooks on music, Project 500 and Urban Renewal.

Size: 35-40 cubic feet


Archive for Cultural Diversity Finding Aid (Early American Museum)

African American History Collection (CCHA)

National Council of Negro Women


4) Champaign County Historical Archives

In addition to the above named collections, the Champaign County Historical Archives in the Urbana Free Library has documentation for all aspects of local African-American history in its clippings and family files. The CCHA also has newsletter, newspaper, and audio-video collections documenting African-American organizations and African-American media. Finally, the CCHA has oral histories of over 30 local African-Americans, many of which are transcribed.

Click here to search the CCHA.

5) John Lee Johnson Papers

The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections in the University of Illinois Library acquired the papers of local activist John Lee Johnson in 2008. Most of the papers document Johnson's activities between 1980 and his death in 2006.

Click here to see the finding aid.

6) WILL - Illinois Public Media

WILL, the local public media radio/TV station, has made much of its documentation of local African-American history and culture available online. Especially of note are the programs of the Youth Media Workshop, which trains local youth in media production.

Illinois Youth Media

Voices of Great Schools Together

Prairie Fire

Message from Home: A Tribute to Jack McDuff

African American Life in Central Illinois

7) The University of Illinois Archives

The University of Illinois Archives has many records relating to the historic African-American community, especially relating to affirmative action hiring, campus-community civil rights collaborations, campus-community initiatives, and African-American students who lived in the community. The archives has produced a guide to its holdings on African-American history.

Additional resources can be found in the Frederic Moyer papers.

8) Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

The UC-IMC has since 1999 offered an alternative media outlet for local African-Americans. Of special note are the UC-IMC's publication, the Public-I, that is available online. Independent reporting is also maintained in the UC-IMC's online archive.

Visit the UC-IMC's site

The Public i

9) The HistoryMakers

An independent Chicago based non-profit, HistoryMakers seeks to create a comprehensive oral history archive of modern African-American experiences. Many of the interviews feature individuals who have lived for various parts of their lives in Champaign-Urbana.

Visit HistoryMakers

10) Black Women in the Middle West Project

During the early 1980s a team of researchers and local historians from Indiana formed the Black Women in the Middle West Project and set out to find, inventory and collect resources on this history. Workshops were held in Champaign-Urbana in 1984 and a number of records were collected from the area.

Black Women in the Middle West finding aid

11) History Library - University of Illinois Library

The History Library is especially strong in its newspaper collections, which include originals and microfilms of the local, regional and national African-American presses.

History Library Newspaper Database

Digital Courier Database

12) University of Illinois Library System

The University of Illinois Library collects all theses and dissertations written by its students. Many of these theses touch on various aspects of African-American life and culture in Champaign-Urbana. The library also comprehensively collects scholarly publications that touch on local issues.

Search the Catalog

Find theses and dissertations.

13) Parkland College Library

Has a number of videotapes on local African-American history that are not available elsewhere.

Search the Catalog

14) Champaign County Cattle Bank Museum

Has the photographs from Raymond Bial's book on African-Americans published in 1984.

Visit their website.

Help make this list better! E-mail additions to Noah Lenstra at or contribute your citations through eBlackCU.