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Celebrating Black History with OPRF Museum

Residents gather in front of
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Oak Park, c.1905

In honor of Black History Month 2021, The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest has compiled this page of local (and free) resources for informative videos, events, and activities celebrating African American History. Though this compilation was inspired by the national recognition of African American History during the month of February, we will not stop there. We at Oak Park River Forest Museum strive to tell the stories of people of color in our community from the earliest day through today, all year long. Share with us what other stories we should be telling. Click here to contact us on our website at any time.

What's Happening at OPRF Museum?

Open House: The Legacy of Fair Housing

Oak Park is seen as a diverse community today, but it wasn't always that way. Our award-winning exhibit "Open House" tells the story of how the community grappled with race before the 1960s and how the 1968 Fair Housing Ordinance sparked changes which still shape our villages today as our community continues to grapple with race in 2021. See this exhibit at OPRF Museum. Contact us to schedule a visit or find out more about regular museum hours.

Suburban Promised Land 

Suburban Promised Land: The Emerging Black Community in Oak Park, Illinois, 1880–1980 tells many of the rich stories of black and white residents who have built a community together and struggled with the often contentious issue of race in the United States. Visit our online History Store to purchase your copy today.

We plan to host book discussions in 2021 to delve deeper into Suburban Promised LandContact us if you are interested in joining a future book discussion.

"Hometown Legends" Web Stories

Olympians, artists, scientists, writers, and so much more. Read biographies of legendary African American residents of Oak Park and River Forest who have made major contributions in their field. Click on any of the names below or visit the Hometown Legends webpage. If you don't see your favorite hometown star, let us know your recommendations for who should be added to the webpage so that we can continue to research and write new stories.

Ellis Coleman, Faith Jefferson Jones, Anna JulianPercy Julian, Geraldine McCullough, Aaron Parchem, John Register, Harriette Gillem Robinet, Dr. Robert Satcher, Jr.Ted Wheeler.


Find out how a few other local institutions are celebrating Black History Month.

DuSable Museum:

Our region's African American history museum and Smithsonian affiliate has many online programs and videos available on their website.

Oak Park Public Library

Join the Anti-Racist Book Club, or sign up for special programs like Motown: Music That Moved the World

River Forest Public Library

Register for a presentation by Thomas Armstrong discussing his book Autobiography of a Freedom Rider: My Life as a Foot Soldier for Civil Rights

Forest Park Historical Society

Find many virtual programs organized by Forest Park Juneteenth Planning Committee, the Forest Park Public Library, the Historical Society of Forest Park, and Forest Park Against Racism. Visit their website to learn more.

Chicago Public Library

Find recommendations for books and media to celebrate African American authors and culture. Those with a Chicago Public Library card can participate in book discussions and events. Visit their web page dedicated to this month's celebration of African American History.


"NOVA: Forgotten Genius," highlights the work of Percy Julian--acclaimed 20th-century scientist and notable Oak Park resident. Visit their website to watch this video or find upcoming show times.

Faith Jefferson, at left, was a 1923 graduate
of OPRF High School. Shown here in a
1940s photo with her parents and son.
Reid Family, 1977
Henry, Sherlynn, and their three
daughters moved to Oak Park in 1968.