Exhibit explores African American legacy in Batavia

  • Historic Batavian John Ozier, shown with Civil War medals, will be featured in a new exhibit, "Community, Culture and Conversations; African American Heritage in Batavia," at the Batavia Depot Museum.

    Historic Batavian John Ozier, shown with Civil War medals, will be featured in a new exhibit, "Community, Culture and Conversations; African American Heritage in Batavia," at the Batavia Depot Museum. Courtesy of Batavia Historical Society Collection

  • This photo of a wedding at Logan Street Church in Batavia in 1940 was shared by Ruth Tousana, seated, at left.

    This photo of a wedding at Logan Street Church in Batavia in 1940 was shared by Ruth Tousana, seated, at left. Courtesy of Ruth Tousana

 
Submitted by Batavia Park District
Posted3/2/2020 12:19 PM

The Batavia Depot Museum has opened for the season with a new exhibit, "Community, Culture and Conversations: African American Heritage in Batavia." Learn why early African Americans decided to call Batavia home, and what their lives were like here after the Civil War to today.

An opening reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at the museum, 155 Houston St. The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 2.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The exhibit will highlight historic Batavians such as John Ozier and James Stewart, as well as share stories from today's African American community, including Ed and Ruth Tousana, Nicholas Brooks and Corey Williams.

Depot curator Amber Foster said it was important not only to highlight the accomplishments of Batavians but explore how the African American community helped shaped Batavia into the city it is today.

"Black history is not just a month of history," Foster said. "It is every day. It's American history. That is why it is important that the Depot continues to develop the narrative of the entire Batavia community."

This exhibition, and the programming that accompanies it, represents a new effort to highlight some of Batavia's lesser-known histories and invite community members to celebrate a different perspective.

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"This exhibit has been a long time coming and is just the first step in our five-year plan of increased diversity and inclusion in the Depot Museum's exhibits and collections," said Batavia Depot Museum director Jennifer Putzier.

For information about the exhibit or related programs, call (630) 406-5274 or visit bataviahistoricalsociety.org/events. Register for programs at bataviaparks.org.

Related programs

• Elizabeth Keckley, Seamstress: 1 p.m. March 29 at the Civic Center Bartholomew Room, 327 W, Wilson Street. Learn about Elizabeth Keckley, who is most well known as Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker. Keckley was an accomplished seamstress who bought her own freedom with her talents in 1855 and built a business that employed 20 women. The presentation is brought to Batavia with the help of the Illinois Humanities Council. Free.

• Connection with Culture, History Biking Tour: 5 p.m. May 5, at the Lodge at Laurelwood, 800 N. River St. This tour will cover Northeast Batavia and point out places important to Batavia's African American history. Please bring a bike you are comfortable with; bicycles will not be provided. $5.

About the museum

The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a joint effort between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854 and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, the city's past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place. It is open seasonally, March through mid-December. Hours are 2 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The suggested admission is $5.

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