Black History

Ethnic Heritage Museum- Black History Month Promo


“The Ethnic Heritage Museum honors early Black Religious Leaders”

Each year for Black History Month, the African American Gallery of the Ethnic Heritage Museum showcases a specific aspect of African American life in Rockford.  This year, on Sunday, February 9, from 2-4:00 PM, the African American Gallery will unveil its newest exhibit honoring some of Rockford’s early Black Religious leaders; Eldridge Gilbert, Robert Hanserd, George Hines, George Holts, Clayborn Salters, and Joseph Turner. Although these men are no longer with us, we want to celebrate their dedication and the contributions they  made to life in Rockford..

The exhibit will feature Rockford’s earliest Black churches and the work that they have done over the years.  The exhibit will include Rockford’s first Black church, Allen Chapel A.M. E which started in 1891 under the leadership of Peter Blakely. Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church was organized as Rockford’s second church for Blacks in 1917, which later changed its name in 1947 to Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Also included in the exhibit is the history of  Bethel Baptist Church, Providence Missionary Baptist Church, Miles Memorial CME Church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ and New Zion Baptist Church.

To kick-off this exhibit, the African American is hosting a gospel music celebration at the museum on Feb. 9 starting at 2:30 PM.  This live musical celebration will feature Rev. Karen King, Odessa Barmore a.k.a. “Momma G” and the “Praise Team” from Providence Baptist Church. In addition, guest exhibitors for the day, Maya Simmons and Carolyn Williams will be showcase their inspirational artwork.

Maya F. Simmons resides in Rockford and is working full-time as a professional artist. She has just retired as the Fine Arts Instructor/Director of the Rockford Area Arts Place Program, which is a program that teaches high school students job and life skill through hands-on art techniques.

Carolyn K. Williams grew up in Rockford and started painting in 2002 during a sick leave from work, and have been painting and creating greeting cards ever since. She retired from Hamilton Sundstrand in 2008 after 31 years of service. She is a Christian who enjoys sharing the messages of Good News and encouragement through the expressions of art.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum is unique in its blend of ethnic groups; African American, Italian, Irish, Polish, Lithuanian, and Hispanic.  A visit to each of these galleries will enlighten visitors of their cultural history and their contribution to life in Rockford. The exhibits in each of these galleries are great for families.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum located at 1129 South Main Street is open every Sunday from 2:00-4:00. Admission is $3. for students, $5.00 for adults, $10 for families and free to EHM members.   For more information visit our website at or email us at

Group tours can be arranged by contacting the museum at 815/962-7402 or emailing The museum is handicap accessible.


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