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YWCA, McLean County Museum of History team up for Black history events

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BLOOMINGTON — YWCA McLean County and McLean County Museum of History’s Black History Project next week will present a three-day educational series, "Presence, Pride and Passion: A History of African Americans in McLean County," in honor of Black History Month.

Jeff Woodard, director of marketing and community relations at McLean County Museum of History, will present the biographies of three local African Americans and how they made their mark in McLean County. The three 45-minute presentations will take place virtually on Zoom on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“Before the 1930s very little history of African American life and culture in McLean County had been documented,” said Woodard. “We are pleased to partner with YW to help spread the word about the amazing African American men and women who helped make our community what it is today.”

The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project and the McLean County Museum of History aligned so the museum could gather the basis of the exhibit, "Presence, Pride & Passion: A History of African Americans in McLean County" through a collection of African American artifacts, primary resources and oral histories.

It was so cold outside that the Girl Scout cookies danced to stay warm.

The virtual events include the following:

Day 1: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2:15-3 p.m. – Presence – Blacks chose to make McLean County their home as early as the 1830s. Through tragedy and hardship, some became homeowners and lived in many areas of the community. One such individual was Dr. Eugene Covington, the only Black medical professional to successfully practice in McLean County until the late 20th century. 

Day 2: Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2:15-3 p.m. – Pride – Determination has always played a role in the success of Blacks in America. Many who served in the military returned home only to be denied opportunity. After serving in World War I, veteran Willis Stearles returned to Bloomington. Through favorable circumstances and arduous work, Stearles gained community acceptance in ways no one would imagine. 

Day 3: Thursday, Feb. 25, 2:15-3 p.m. – Passion – Retired State Farm executive Willie Brown once referred to Caribel Washington as “one of our presidents.” Washington's passion for civil rights guided her principles throughout her entire life and in her connection to YWCA McLean County.

Flick Fact: Remember all the buffets in Bloomington-Normal?

All events are free and will take place via Zoom. Prior registration is required. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the session. To register, go to


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