The Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum revealed their newest exhibit “Early African American Pioneers of Central Illinois” on Sunday, May 6th. Seven families were featured in the exhibit and descendants of the families spoke about their family’s 100 years in the area. One of the exhibits featured, Major George Ford, the grandfather of Elise Ford Allen, editor, publisher and founder of the Traveler Weekly.
As stated by Linda Allen Hollis, the Ford Family Chronicler, “It is an honor for our family and the others here to represent our heritages. If we don’t tell of our history, it will be lost.” She went on to discuss Major George Ford’s
life as military officer, Secretary of the Army Navy Committee of the Niagara Movement, and his personal friendship with Teddy Roosevelt. Major Ford came to Springfield in 1906 as the superintendent of Camp Butler Cemetery and was the first president of the NAACP there. Major Ford died in 1939 at the age of 91. At that time, he had been the last survivor of the original 10th Calvary. Allen-Hollis was accompanied by her husband Mark, and other family members, Angela Henry, Managing Editor of the Traveler Weekly, Barbara Randle, James Allen Jr., Candy Webb, and Michael Foster.
The other families recognized in the exhibit are descendants of James Yokem, Leanna Donnegan, Rice Murrell, John Walker, Thomas Jefferson Houston, Pendleton Wilson and James B. Scott. The exhibit is the result of research and interviews done by board member, Elizabeth Alexander and volunteer, Patricia Davis. It was sponsored and funded by a grant from the Sangamon County Historical Society.
For more information on The Springfield & Central Illinois African American History Museum visit http://www.spiaahm.org or call the museum at (217) 391-6323.