From WILL - Illinois Pioneers - February 24, 2011

Champaign African-American History

WILL-TV’s Illinois Pioneers looks at African-American history in Champaign, Ill., through the eyes of Estella Merrifield and Hester Suggs, sisters and members of the Nelson family, one of the earliest African-American families in the city. Through their memories and photos, the program chronicles a portion of history from the Civil War through the Civil Rights protests of the late 1960s.

They talk about their grandfather, Joseph Nelson, who around 1900 was one of the first African Americans in the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department, and describe the importance of organizations such as the American Legion in the lives of African-American residents. Churches, such as Salem Baptist and Bethel AME, were all-important as well, they said.