During the iPRES 2022 conference, Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty called the digital preservation community to deepen our partnerships with community archives and organizations. She asked us to listen to their experiences and to open ourselves to their perspectives and wisdom in preserving cultural heritage resources in digital form while committing ourselves to long-term relationships. In alignment with this theme, Sherry Williams will share her experiences as a steward of community archives in Chicago. Drawing from her extensive endeavors in documenting the history of the African American community in Chicago and beyond, Williams will not only present thought-provoking questions and anecdotes but also steer us toward a more profound comprehension of community needs. She will engage the audience in a facilitated discussion, seeking to help us better understand how we can learn from and walk alongside people in community organizations, as we seek to assist them in preserving and providing access to a more comprehensive and representative historical record.
Sherry Williams was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in the Englewood Community. She is Founder and President of the Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society and a graduate of the University of Illinois ISchool.
Williams led African American cultural programs at the Pullman State Historic Site on the Senator Stephen A. Douglas Tomb Site and Monument Park grounds from 2007-2017. In 2009, Williams was voted Vice President of the Pullman Civic Organization. She also served as a board member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, from 2000-2005.
She is an active member of the Afro American Genealogical and Historical Society (Chicago Chapter); a board member of the Bronzeville Trail Task Force, Inc.; a board member of Chicago Coalition of Park Advisory Councils; an advisory member of Illinois State Historical Society; a former commissioner of the Amistad Commission of the State of Illinois (2010-2012); an institutional member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance; a parter institution of Choose Chicago; and a board secretary of the Burnham Park Advisory Council.
In 2010, Williams developed the Chicago Freedom Tours with the guidance of Dr. Christopher Reed, and well noted historian and educator Mrs. Glennette Tilley Turner. Funding support for the project came from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Williams trained volunteers to provide portrayals at historic sites in Chicago where Civil war era statesmen, ministry leaders, and abolitionists supported freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad.
In 2009, Williams developed the Earl and Beverly Johnson Bird Oasis at the Pullman State Historic Site. In 2012,Williams developed an African Heritage Garden and Migratory Bird Oasis at Senatory Stephen Douglas Tomb Site. Both public spaces are currently closed. The Johnson Bird Oasis was destroyed when the National Park Service removed toxic soil contaminants at the Pullman Clock Tower building. The Migratory Bird Oasis at Douglas Tomb site remains vital. On September 5, 2020, Williams galvanized the family of Nancy Green, community members and faith leaders to place a headstone at her grave. Nancy Green was the original Aunt Jemima.
Williams was selected as honoree of the Chicago Chapter Friends of the Amistad Award 2002; became a Timuel D. Black Fellow in 2010; was awarded an Audubon TogetherGreen Toyota Fellowship in May 2012; received a Northeastern Illinois University alumni award (2020); recognized as a distinguished alum of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2021; awarded the Commission on Chicago Landmarks – 2022 Landmarks Advocacy Award in recognition of years of protecting historic architecture and heritage documentation; in 2022, State of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza recognized and honored Williams along with 5 volunteers for the countless hours spent to preserve and catalog over 140,000 individual burial records This important project preserved the history of Black Illinoisians and the Great Migration.
Along with her numerous educational undertakings, Williams has established memberships and associations with more than 26 other institutions and organizations. She earned her BA in Education at Northeastern Illinois University -Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in 2016. She completed her Masters in Library and Information Science at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 2019.
Williams offers significant oral and written documentation of African and African American contributions to this great City of Chicago.Williams is the author of “100 Notable People and Places in Bronzeville (Black Chicago).” Williams is currently working on locating the descendants of slaves on plantations owned by Senator Stephen A. Douglas. She believes they will have a shared African ancestry by way of Liberia.
Williams is a descendant of former slaves who lived in the Delta of Mississippi. For more than 20 years, history centered on African American residents of Chicago has been enjoyed by all ages at public presentations hosted by the organization. Bronzeville Historical Society has all volunteer staffing.