For Immediate Release:
September 25, 2006
Contact: Jill Burwitz (ALPLM)
(217) 558-8970 office
(217) 299-6165 cell
African American Oral History Tapes Available at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
32 prominent Springfield African American residents share their stories of segregation,
life in the Springfield community from as early as W.W. I
Springfield, Ill. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library announced today the gift of 44 African American oral history tapes from the Springfield African American History Foundation. These tapes share the stories of 32 African Americans prominent in 20th century Springfield. Some of the tapes have been transcribed and are available for public use in the Presidential Library.
"The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is not merely about the Sixteenth President but the larger story of Illinois and its citizens," said Thomas F. Schwartz, Interim Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. "These tapes help advance our understanding of the lives of African Americans and the significant contributions they made to better our lives and Illinois."
The interest in the project came after the African American History Foundation sought to recognize the Lincoln Colored Home, located at 427 South Twelfth Street, as a National Historic Landmark. Foundation leaders knew Springfield had a strong African American history to share — but more importantly preserve.
"We realize the rich contribution made by these individuals to the development of Springfield as we see it today," said Rudy Davenport, President of the Springfield African American History Foundation. "We were most fortunate to work with Cullom Davis, PhD., a pioneer in the field of oral history, who gave freely of his time and expertise to hold four workshops to train a team of volunteers as interviewers. The fact that these are in the care of this prestigious library makes this history available to local journalists, researchers, students, and of course, to the entire world."
The individuals interviewed document Springfield from a completely
segregated society to today. Since 2004, volunteer interviewers —
diverse in age, race and occupation - have captured these stories
on tape. Trained by Cullom Davis, a nationally recognized oral historian,
interviewers were able to capture real life stories of hope, happiness
and despair. Interestingly, of all the individuals interviewed, a
common subject mentioned among all of them is the segregation years
in Springfield. Other stories touched upon include; family life; religion;
the 1908 Springfield Race Riots second-hand, African-American sororities
and fraternities; Dreamland Park; Springfield police and fire departments
of the 40's and 50's; black businesses, hotels and restaurants that
existed east of Eleventh Street; the big bands and famous singers
who performed here, but had to stay with local families because they
were barred from local hotels.
The African American History Association has obtained grants to help pay for the cost of transcribing. The process costs about $27 dollars-per-hour, taking about 5 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio. The Tape Transcription Center in Boston has transcribed some of the tapes. In addition, the Smith/Stocks-Smith Education and Economic Development Foundation provided additional funds through an education grant to help cover some of the costs. Currently, the African American History Foundation is seeking additional grants/funding to transcribe the remaining 35 tapes. However, the project is on-going, as the committee of volunteers will continue their interviews as they identify still more people who have a story to tell of their life in Springfield.
Also, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is pleased to welcome Mark DePue to the ALPL staff. Mark is the new Director of Oral History for the Presidential Library. As the state's new Director of Oral History, he will develop an oral history program that will help preserve Illinois' rich and diverse history by capturing the voices that made history.
Born and raised in small town Iowa, Mark was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1976, and then served with the Field Artillery at Fort Carson, Colorado and South Korea. In 1981 he began graduate school at the University of Iowa, concentrating his studies on contemporary U.S. History, film history and military history. He received his Masters Degree in 1984, and served as a teaching assistant for several years. He also joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1981, and began working full-time for the Illinois National Guard in 1986, starting with an ROTC assignment at Western Illinois University, followed by stints in Springfield and Chicago.
Mark retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in 2001, and immediately returned to his other love — history. Since that time he has completed his Ph.D., writing on the Evolution of the Citizen-Soldier in American History, published a reference book on the Illinois Militia and National Guard, and is currently awaiting the publication of a second book. This book is on Springfield's 233rd Military Police Company and its experience as the first MP Company assigned to work in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam.
Mark is married to Su Youn DePue, originally of Pusan, Korea, and has two children, Ellen and Peter. He is active in civic and church activities, and in his spare time likes gardening, films of the classic era, and of course, history.