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Harlem Renaissance Exhibit

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During the 1920-40s, Black America went through a cultural revolution known as the Harlem Renaissance. On Sunday, June 23, the Ethnic Heritage Museum will unveil its newest exhibit examining the accomplishments of some of the writers, artists and musicians of this creative time in our history. 

The Harlem Renaissance is considered the most influential period in African American literary history. It was a time of great creativity in musical, theatrical, and visual arts but was perhaps most associated with literature. The Harlem Renaissance flourished in the 1920s and had Harlem in New York City as its symbolic capital. The movement included other major cities. The artists from the Chicago Black Renaissance and the Pittsburg Black Renaissance will be included in the exhibit.

The African American Gallery is hosting a words and music program to open the exhibit and give visitors an opportunity to experience a small sampling of the Harlem Renaissance. The doors will open at 2:00 p.m. The literary portion of the program will start at 2:30 with Rockford Readers Theatre, and the music portion will began at 3:15 p.m with Ms. Diamond (Odessa Barmore Gulley). This presentation is free to the public but donations are greatly appreciated.

Players from the Rockford Readers Theatre, directed by Dorothy Paige-Turner, will showcase poetry, literature and theatrical monologues by noted artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Included are Langston Hughes, Angelina Weld Grimke, Robert Hayden and Zora Neale Hurston.

Music from the Harlem Renaissance will be performed by Rockford native, Odessa Barmore Gulley, also known as “Ms. Diamond” and “Momma G.” Odessa began singing at the age of 5 years old at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in the 1960s. In the 1970s and 80s, she sang with the Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church Choir. In the 1980s Odessa moved to Detroit, MI. There she sang backup for various blues recording artists including Bobby “Blue” Bland. Returning to Rockford in the 1990s Odessa has performed with many musicians from the Rockford and Chicago areas. She has been the lead vocalist for the “Freestyle R&B” band since 2002.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum celebrates the accomplishments of six nationalities that were instrumental in developing southwest Rockford: African American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, and Polish.  The Graham-Ginestra House is a beautiful historic home built in the 1850s by the Graham family and purchased in the 1920s by the Ginestra family. For almost 150 years the home was only occupied by members of these two families.

The Heritage Museum Park (Ethnic Heritage Museum and Graham-Ginestra House) is open every Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. General admission to both museums is only $5 student, $7 individual, $15 per family or free to members. The Ethnic Heritage Museum is handicap accessible. There is parking available in the lot on the corner of Main and Morgan Streets next to the Graham-Ginestra House with additional parking on Loomis Street by the museum. For more information call 815/962-7402 or visit

Subarea:Rockford Southwest

Heritage Museum Park Welcome Center, Ethnic Heritage Museum - 1129 South Main St., Rockford, IL 61101 | Graham-Ginestra House – 1115 S. Main St., Rockford, IL 61101 ----- From I-90 and U.S. Business 20 (E. State St.): West 6.5 miles on Business 20 to IL 2 southbound (S. Church St.-S. Main St.). Turn left (south) on IL 2 for a little over one mile. Museum is on the right-hand side of S. Main Street. ----- From I-39: Go west on Bypass U.S. 20 to IL 2 (S. Main St.). Turn north on IL 2 to the museum on the west side of the street. ----- Parking is available on the street or in the lot on the corner of S. Main St. and Morgan Street, north of the museum park.

Harlem Renaissance Exhibit
  • June 23, 2019
  • Ethnic Heritage Museum, African American Gallery
  • $7 adult | $5 student | $15 family | Free for members