Black history organization opens center

Katie Prentiss

After years of uncovering documents about black history from Northwestern’s archives and other Illinois suburbs, the local black history organization Shorefront will open a new museum and research center this weekend.

The grand opening of the Legacy Center, 2010 Dewey Ave., on Saturday will feature a program including presentations by local playwright Ebony Joy, poet Parneshia Jones and artist Alan Hyde.

“There’s a lot of chatter about it, so we’re nervous about it, but also hopeful that we’ll have a large turnout,” said Dino Robinson,, Shorefront’s founder. “We hope to have the problem of having not enough room.”

Robinson founded Shorefront in 1995 to collect and preserve documentation about black history from Evanston, Lake Forest , Ill., and Glencoe, Ill., he said. The organization, which became an official nonprofit in 2002, also aims to educate the community about the documentation it finds. Robinson is currently working on uncovering information about past segregation in Evanston schools.

Northwestern archivist Kevin Leonard, who has been working with Robinson for years, said he looks forward to the museum’s opening.

“It’s a banner day for Shorefront and for Evanston to have a resource like that,” Leonard said. “He’s done a fantastic job scouring the town for important records that were in danger of being lost.”

Robinson said opening the Legacy Center has been Shorefront’s ultimate goal.

“The history center is a culmination of a dream that Dino and many others have had for a long time,” said Janice Hack, the executive director of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society. Hack has worked closely with Robinson on uncovering important documents regarding black history in Lake Forest.

The center will be open Thursday through Saturday for people to research and view the organization’s past projects.

The center will also house programming that Shorefront has been doing for several years, including the Legacy Keepers, a program that teaches middle school students how to restore and collect historical documents. Since 2005, when the program started, it has had no permanent home, operating out of schools and other local organizations.

Opening the center is only one of many contributions Robinson has made to Evanston, Leonard said.

“His contributions to future scholarship are very significant,” Leonard said. “He’s a gem, a pleasure to deal with, a great asset to the Evanston community.”

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