Click on Thumbnails for Full Size Images

Home Next Back


Main Text

Search by Page Number


Text Only Version

Image Gallery







Patricia Robert Harris, a Native of Mattoon, IL. She was the first African American woman to hold a U.S. ambassadorial position when she was named U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg by President Lyndon Johnson in 1956.

Delia Brown, a young black girl was born in 1872 in Ohio and came to Oakland, IL around 1884. She grew up in Dr. Hiram Rutherford's home. She is the lone black girl in the school picture.

Joe Haddock in front of Dr. Hiram Rutherford's house, c. 1890's.

Joe Haddock in his cowboy clothes. He came to Oakland, IL as a child in company of horse traders at the age of ten. He was deserted and the Rutherford children brought him home to give him clothes and food. He grew up in the household and worked for the local telephone company.

The first grade class of 1907, at North School in Mattoon, IL with their teacher Miss Katrine Morgan, who later became Lincoln School's Principal. Note and unidentified black girl in the center of the picture.

Picture of Patricia Roberts Harris of Mattoon, IL on a United Postal Service Black Heritage Stamp Series. The stamp was issued in 2000.

Her daughter Judith Williams-Lyles also suffered the same fate as a young girl growing up in Mattoon. When she attempted to swim in a public pool in Mattoon she was denied. Mr. James Williams, Judith's father, remarked that "This is the first incident that stands out that affected my family... I can't swim today on account they wouldn't let blacks swim in the pool that's the reason I took it to court." (58) Judith was finally allowed to swim at the pool. Hence, the case was never tried in court. She believes having friends and family make a difference in coping with the situation. Mr. Williams also complained of job discrimination in 1940's Mattoon. In his words:

Yeah back during World War II Atlas Diesel it was— ran an ad for help and so I went up there to put my application in and I had to go through the unemployment office and I never did hear from them —so about a week or so I went back to the unemployment office well I put my application in and every time I pick up the paper they got an ad in there that they need help. I said, I'm capable of doing the work. I said, I'll come back here next Monday and you are going to tell me why they have not called me— you check into it and find out. I came back that next Monday and he said well you wouldn't want to work where they didn't want you would? I said, why didn't you tell me that in the first place so about a week or so, I had a friend working up in Rockford you know— in a foundry plant and he said well you can probably get on up there. We left on a Sunday night got into Rockford and didn't have a place to stay, waited for the plant to open up put in my application and at 10:00 I was working. Well that's the difference in your own home town wouldn't even hire you. (59)

The Williams family also faced housing discrimination. When they tried to rent accomodation from white landlords, they were turned down. This might explain the clustering of black families in certain neighborhoods in Mattoon. A survey gleaned from city directories and census records in Mattoon by Whitmal revealed that "It appeared as if there might be a distinct black community in the city. There seems to be some clustering of black families in the same areas. The majority of the dwellings tend to be in the vicinity of the black churches at 523 N. 20th Street and 2520 Shelby Avenue." (60) In order to counter the dominant racial attitude towards blacks by white, some blacks have, over the years, felt that acquiring saleable skills and higher education will guarantee social mobility thereby reducing the effects of racial discrimination.

The establishment of Eastern Illinois State Normal School in 1895 by the Illinois General Assembly provided African Americans such opportunities. It is not clear when African American students were first admitted to the school. Available records show that Zella F. Powell, a member of the prominent Powell family of Mattoon might be the first black graduate of the school in 1910. Following her graduation she became a private teacher in Mattoon between 1910 and 1914. She then continued her education at the Chicago Normal School from 1914 to 1916. From 1916 to 1917 she was a Substitute Teacher in an elementary school in Chicago. And from 1917 to 1922, she was hired as a full-time elementary school teacher in Chicago. (61) Another prominent Mattoon resident. Ms. Bernice Gray graduated from the same school in 1928. Meanwhile the institution had been renamed Eastern Illinois State Teachers College in 1921. Miss Gray was one of five children all of whom went to and graduated from college. Two members of her family went on to obtain advanced degrees. She later taught at Webster Grove, Missouri about ten miles west of St. Louis for some years before returning home to Mattoon when she began to experience failing eyesight. Miss Gray continued to serve her black community in her private capacity.

Captain Charles Blakely Hall was another famous black Alumnus of Eastern Illinois University. He attended Eastern from 1938 to 1941 when he enlisted into the Army. He made his mark in the military as an ace fighter pilot during World War II with the famous "all--Negro" 99th Fighter Squadron. Recounting Hall's achievements, Charles H. Coleman wrote:

On July 2, 1942, in Sicily, he became the first American negro pilot to shoot down an enemy plane. Later in the Italian campaign he shot down two other German planes. Captain Hall became Flight Leader of the "All-American" Flight, and third in command of the 99th Fighter Squadron. He flew more than 75 fighter plane missions against the enemy. At Eastern Captain Hall played on the 1938 and 1939 football teams. (62)

Home Next Back