Evanston man promotes black history on North Shore
Photo of a presentation with Northwestern Legacy Center staff members. | Photo courtesy of Evanston Photographic Studios
NAME: Morris “Dino” Robinson
BEST KNOWN AS: Shorefront Legacy Center founder
EVANSTON — When he’s not working at his full-time job as a production coordinator for the Northwestern University Press, Evanston resident Morris Robinson (nickname Dino) pours his time and energy into the Shorefront Legacy Center.
That’s the nonprofit organization he launched in the 1990s that focuses on research and the preservation of local black history.
Shorefront, at 2010 Dewey Ave., is an archival gallery and library dedicated to the continuing research of black history in seven North Shore suburbs — Evanston, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka.
Nearly two decades of research spearheaded by Robinson has uncovered a plethora of previously unpublished information that has revealed a new look at North Shore-area black history dating back more than 150 years.
Robinson’s passion for researching his own genealogy back in the mid-1990’s sparked his interest in local-black-history research. While digging through microfilms of obituaries, consensus data, articles and other historical documents in 1995, Robinson realized there was a lack of solid documentation on black history of the North Shore.
As he began delving deeper into his research he began sharing his newfound knowledge through a series of articles he wrote for the Evanston Clarion — a newspaper that has been defunct since 1997.
In 1999 Robinson introduced Shorefront to the public by distributing an informal quarterly newsletter to the public.
Several years later in 2002 Shorefront established itself as the only active nonprofit organization in the north suburbs that provides an outlet for the study and research for black history.
Robinson had housed his rapidly growing collection of historical research in his home until 2009, when he opened the Shorefront Legacy Center, a converted school building that features a gallery and research library with more than 400 books, 1,000 historical photos, audio tapes of interviews with local families and other materials.
The center is funded through donations and grants from area-organizations including the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Francis Beidler Foundation and others.
“I wanted to create something that had permanency to the many families that have been living in the North Shore for many generations,” Robinson said. “There’s nothing else out there like this where the whole community can come in and look at things like this.”
Among his findings Robinson has found what was the first black church in the North Shore — a congregation formed in 1870 in Lake Forest. He has also completed extensive research on Evanston’s first black alderman, Edwin Jourdain, and pilot Fred Hutcherson, Jr., and many other prominent black historical figures.