In 1995, Shorefront started as an interest group called “Through The Eyes of Us” with the aim of documenting early Black communities on Chicago’s suburban North Shore. Our initial efforts focused on collecting oral histories, researching historic names, businesses, organizations, and migration patterns, and publishing records on the local Black community.
In 1999, the group introduced the quarterly Shorefront Journal, a community-contributed collection of historical information, with a circulation of just 300 per issue. In 2002, the journal transitioned to an online blog for greater discoverability. That year, we consolidated our organizational efforts and officially became known as Shorefront Legacy Center in June 2002.
Shorefront has since expanded to include youth programming, exhibits, public presentations and an archive representing the historic Black communities north of Chicago. Currently, our collection consists of over 500 linear feet of documents, photographs, moving images and ephemera. We continue to grow and accept donations on a daily basis, with increased efforts focused on digitization of our archival materials.
The Shorefront Legacy Center has been widely used as a resource to the benefit of historical and educational institutions, students, historians, and our community at large. We’ve partnered with the National Museum of African American History and Culture at The Smithsonian, contributed to the successful passage of funded reparation in Evanston, and worked closely with the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) to shift our organization to a community based archive model.
Through this all, the work of Shorefront remains true to our core mission values: Collect, Preserve, Educate. We seek to close the knowledge gap on Black history in the North Shore for all of our visitors, educators and community, and ensure that future generations will need not repeat the far too frequent refrain of: “I did not know…”.