By Sophia Weglarz, EHC Summer Intern 2018
In my case, the world smelled of hundreds of biographical files, which certainly did not smell of roses. Even so, there was very little that could subvert my interest of these files or of the stories within them.
This summer, in hopes of learning more about different women in Evanston, I served as an intern at the Evanston History Center and got connected to the Evanston Women’s History Project which is based there. I was guided by EHC and EWHP staff towards Shorefront, a local organization dedicated to preserving and recording the lives of black citizens who lived on the North Shore. Needless to say, I was immediately fascinated, and I quickly found myself immersed in reading the Shorefront journals which hold the narratives of various black women who had lived on the North Shore. In these women, I found many role models.
At first, I read the journals in print, many of which written before I was even born. Then, I continued reading the journals as they transitioned to a digital format, all while retaining the same heart and spirit the original print journals encapsulated. While my original job was to work with the Evanston Women’s History Project to add new women’s stories that I had encountered through Shorefront, I ended up finding something so much more captivating.
Upon becoming fascinated with the story of Eleanor “Brownie” Frazier that first appeared in a 2006 Winter issue of Shorefront, I decided to do more research into Brownie’s personal background. Thus, my preoccupation began. I came to discover that Brownie’s mother was none other than Annabelle Crawford, granddaughter of Anthony Crawford. Anthony Crawford was a wealthy, black landowner living in Abbeville, SC, until he was lynched brutally and publicly. This prompted the Crawford family, as well as many other families living in Abbeville and nearby towns, to migrate north to Evanston.
The pieces suddenly came together, and using the work of the late, great historian and great-great granddaughter of Anthony Crawford, Doria Johnson, I uncovered more about the migration from Abbeville to Evanston, as well as more about the effect the migration had on the north in a broader, cultural sense. This experience of discovery was so rewarding, and I will continue to investigate this connection further into the fall.
Overall, I couldn’t be more grateful to the Evanston History Center, Shorefront, Doria Johnson’s research, and, of course, the Evanston Women’s History Project. Above all, I learned that a summer of files can hold much more excitement than a summer of roses ever could.