Genealogical society promotes awareness of African American culture

DECATUR, Ill. | The outside of the African American Cultural and
Genealogical Society looks considerably different than it once
did.

The front window sports a new logo with a background silhouette
of Zulu warriors on the march, matching a piece of art inside the
redecorated and expanded society in Decatur’s downtown. The
perforated window film was made by DynaGraphics Fast Impressions
and was the idea of Jeff Hendricks, executive director of the
Decatur Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Founder Evelyn Hood said Hendricks has been a partner in giving
her and marketing director Mark Fuller ideas to expand and organize
the society’s collection. One addition is a slave’s dress, more
than 100 years old and very well preserved, once worn by Polly Ann
Roberts, a maid and an ancestor of one of the society’s board
members.

According to Hood, statistics show that only about 1 percent of
African-Americans in Macon County have researched their family
history. The society has access to census records from Southern
states, birth and death certificates, cemetery records, slave
schedules and other resources.

“This is only the beginning,” Hood said. “We have a lot more we
want to do here.”

The society began 18 years ago and is open 1:30 to 5 p.m.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every other
Saturday and other times by appointment. Call (217) 429-7458.

The new look is a way to raise the society’s profile so that
more people will use of its resources, Fuller said.

“We’re trying to draw more of a crowd and stand out,” Fuller
said. “This started all the way back in 2010 when we changed our
official logo, and from there, we’re moving into a new phase.”

Students at Mount Zion High School recently donated an exhibit
to the society, and several activities are planned for the coming
months, Hood said.

When the outdoor look is finished, the building will be bright
and colorful and stand out, Hood said. Inside, the books, computer
stations, interactive maps, and collection of art and artifacts has
expanded to the point where Hood is talking about a move to a
larger location eventually.

“Just a few things that you change can make things so
different,” she said.

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