African American Resources for Illinois

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African American Resources


A list of resources for researching African American ancestors who lived in Illinois.

Chicago American Giants 1919

Brief History

The Great Migration of African Americans brought many from the rural South to Chicago. Most came from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. By 2008, 15.0% of the population in Illinois was African American, with the majority living within the city of Chicago and the surrounding areas.

Slavery was banned by 1818 when Illinois became a state, though the southern part continued to allow slavery for several more years. This part, called "Little Egypt", was mostly settled by Southerners. By 1853 laws were passed prohibiting all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state. This eventually changed after the Civil War.

In October 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed many buildings and records.

Explore a chronology of African-American history in Illinois. Courtesy of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Illinois Repositories with African American Collections

Illinois State Archives
Margret Cross Norton Building
Springfield, IL 62756
Phone: (217) 782-4682
Fax: (217) 524-3930
"African–American Records" describes what records are at the State Archives with an online method for ordering records.
Illinois State Archives Servitude and Emancipation Records Database (1722–1863) includes names of African American servants, slaves, or free persons from selected governmental records. A full description of this database can be found here.
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637-1495
Phone: (773) 947-0600
Springfield Illinois African American History Foundation
883 Roanoke Drive
Springfield, IL, 62702
Phone: (217) 698-6339
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
112 N. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62701
Phone: (800) 610-2094 or (217) 782-5764
Holdings include materials on various ethnic groups and ethnic migration patterns as well as a collection of oral interviews conducted by the Springfield African-American History Foundation. Search the card catalog.
Newberry Library
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 943-9090
"African American Genealogy" lists sources and helps for African American research.
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60628
Phone: (312) 745-2080
The collection contains family papers, organizational files, annual reports, conference files, family newsletters, reunion books, funeral programs, and more.


African-American Genealogical Research Institute
P.O. Box 637
Matteson, IL 60443
African-American Cultural and Genealogical Society
314 North Main St.
Decatur, IL 62523

Published Sources

Books about African American Research

Books about African Americans

  • Hine, Darlene Clark. The Black Women in the Middle West Project: a Comprehensive Resource Guide, Illinois and Indiana; Historical Essays, Oral Histories, Biographical Profiles, and Document Collections. Indianapolis [Indiana]: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1986. Many libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 977 F2h.
  • Miller, Edward A. The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: the Story of the Twenty-Ninth U.S. Colored Infantry. [Columbia, South Carolina]: University of South Carolina Press, 1998. Many libraries (WorldCat); Google Books; FHL book 977.3 M2mi
  • Smith, John David. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Many libraries (WorldCat)
  • Davis, Elizabeth Lisdsay. The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Chicago, 1922. Read online at Internet Archive. Available at many libraries (WorldCat).

Additional Published Sources


The Booker T. Washington Papers, Library of Congress


African Americans

Some African-Americans may be listed in the comprehensive index of servitude and emancipation records at the Illinois State Archives. These records are also available in IRAD depositories. See also the following sources:

For further information, see: Illinois African Americans.

Online Resources: