Illinois Humanities Awards $63,250 in Grants to 22 Organizations and Individuals

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By Mark Hallett, Director of Grants Programs

Read Time 5 minutes
June 24, 2023

Illinois Humanities Grants Provide Support for Public Humanities Projects Across the State

Two recent rounds of grant funding were awarded to organizations and individuals across Illinois: a series of 14 public humanities projects meant to engage audiences across the state, awarded through our Vision and Action grants (January 2023 cycle); and 8 micro-grants that aim to engage local audiences with area collections and archives, through our Activate History Microgrants (March 2023 cycle).

Vision and Action Grants Awards

The Black experience in Lake Forest and the life of a Jim Crow-era Bronzeville lawyer are among the historic topics featured in grantee projects.

Deeply Rooted and Rising High: African American Experiences in Lake Forest” is a free exhibition tracing the history of the Black community in Lake Forest. Produced by the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, founded in 1972, the exhibition is the brainchild of museum executive director Carol Summerfield. Covering 120 years of African American history in this north shore community, the exhibition opened May 10th and will remain through November 10th.

Featuring more than a dozen family histories and research into how self-advocacy and economic opportunity created a unique American experience, the exhibit was developed as part of an ongoing partnership with the Lake Forest College Department of African American Studies. “Work on this exhibition provided college students with significant project work that helps elevate their resumes and skills in preparation for their careers,” explains Summerfield.

“The audience should pull from a 50-mile radius and be multigenerational, leading to conversations across attendees about what they remember of the history we are covering and how the exhibit stories resonate with them,” says Summerfield. An additional benefit of the exhibit is that local leaders will better understand the inadvertent barriers that can be built into the local civic structure.

Visitors engaging with a display in the “Deeply Rooted and Rising High: African American Experiences in Lake Forest” exhibit at the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff.

The full list of project grants funded totals 14, nine of them in Cook County.

Activate History Microgrants Awards

A cohort of Activate History micro-grant recipients is also being announced at this time. Activate History micro-grants award $750, plus additional funds for accessibility and documentation. These grants aim to allow stewards of local collections and archives to engage with local communities around their collections.

Tony Burroughs is a South Side genealogist who has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and assisting others in researching their family history. His project is, quite literally, close to home for him; it is focused on a 1928 president of the Cook County Bar Association, an unsung hero rarely mentioned in histories of Black Chicagoans – his grandfather.

Exploring some 83 letters, legal documents, and press releases that Tony’s grandmother left when she died in 1987, Burroughs will explore the life of A.M. Burroughs and his wife Alma. “I humidified, flattened and then stored these documents in acid-free file folders and an acid-free box,” Burroughs says. Dating from the 1920s through the 1960s, they tell of a remarkable, civically engaged couple from the Bronzeville neighborhood.

In addition to learning about the archive, the accomplishments of an African American lawyer during the Jim Crow era, and Bronzeville businesses and organizations, attendees will also learn how to discover, organize, and preserve family documents and how to begin tracing their family history. The host of the July 1st in-person event, to take place at the CPL Woodson Regional Library, will be the Chicago Black History Forum, chaired by retired Roosevelt University history professor Dr. Christopher R. Reed.

Image of AM Burroughs from the collection of Tony Burroughs

Of the eight projects selected for funding, three are in Cook County and five elsewhere in the state.

About Illinois Humanities' Grants Program

Illinois Humanities offers a variety of funding opportunities for individuals and nonprofit organizations of many sizes, disciplines, and stages of development to increase their local and statewide impact and support the state’s cultural ecosystem. Learn about available grants and read more stories about the dynamic work of our grantee partners.

Available Grants