Belleville Library getting African-American history exhibit
by Aaron Sudholt, St. Clair Journal
The Belleville Public Library will be hosting a look into one of Illinois’ less-documented perspectives on the past: African-American history.
The African-American History Exhibit will be premiering at the library Sept. 2 through Nov. 4. It will provide the curious with a chance to learn about the history of black Illinois residents throughout Illinois’ history before and after it became a state.
Library Archivist Dana Prusacki said that the exhibit’s goal was “to show not only the discrimination that African-Americans experienced in this state but to show the influence they had.”The exhibit includes items such as a photo exhibit called “Generations of Pride: African-Americans in Illinois.” It that features photographs, documents, drawings and more that teach about life on slave ships, slavery and on into modern times.
The Illinois Historical Protection Agency began the exhibit in 1995 after it determined that black history in Illinois was poorly documented.
Cathryn Harris, who is currently with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library but who had worked with the IHPA making the exhibit, said it had many powerful and educational messages to convey.
“One of my favorite images is one of the very first images in the exhibit,” she said. “It is a diagram of the hold of a slave ship. It is quite provocative. It shows the absolute horror of slavery by the way in which the people are packed in the ship like sardines.”
The exhibit also includes a portion called “What Shall I tell My Children Who are Black?” where a series of biographies and portraits of famous Illinois African-Americans in history.
The exhibit will run during library hours, which are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.