Rockford’s history begins with its founding by three men, Thatcher Blake, Germanicus Kent and his slave Lewis Lemon, who later purchased his freedom. Since that humble beginning, the African American community has played an important role in the development of Rockford.
This year, the Ethnic Heritage Museum’s Black History Month exhibit spotlights all our local African American elected or appointed officials, past and present. This exhibit will showcase the careers of African Americans who have served for Winnebago County, as State Representatives, for the city of Rockford and on various school boards. This exhibit will also showcase the accomplishments of Marcella Harris, Rockford’s first African American elected official. This tribute is open every Sunday from February 10 to April 28.
On Sunday, February 17th, the African American Gallery will host the production of “Lewis Lemon – An Uncommon Life” starring Carl Towns at 2:30 pm. “Lewis Lemon – An Uncommon Life” is the “living history” account of an ex-slave who become one of the Founding Fathers of the city of Rockford on Sunday, August 24, 1834. This 45 minute presentation will include historical facts, fictional accounts, poetry and music. This presentation is free to the public but donations are greatly appreciated.
Dorothy Paige-Turner wrote this one-man play with music especially for the International Day of Peace September 2018. Ms. Paige-Turner is a retired music educator and specializes in creative and dramatic arts. She has written and co-written several plays and musicals which have toured Rockford Schools and the community.
Lewis Lemon is portrayed by Carl L. Towns, a Rockford native and a graduate of East High School. His introduction to performing before others was at Pilgrim Baptist Church in plays and holiday programs. Carl has performed with the Rockford's Readers Theater, directed and coordinated by Dorothy Paige-Turner for the past 3 years.
The Ethnic Heritage Museum houses six nationalities that were instrumental in developing southwest Rockford: African American, Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish, and Hispanic. A visit to each gallery will enlighten visitors of the cultural history of each of these groups.The Ethnic Heritage Museum and Graham-Ginestra House are 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 on Loomis St. by the museum and additional parking in the lot on the corner of Main and Morgan Streets next to the Graham-Ginestra House. For more information call 815/962-7402 or visit www.ethnicheritagemuseum.org
Directions: 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.