This online exhibit presents a selection of historical examples of racism in Wilmette, focusing largely on two main aspects: the attitudes and practices that kept Black people out of Wilmette, and the mocking stereotypes of blackface performances.
These examples (presented chronologically) reveal a persistent anti-Black bias among some residents for about 100 years. Such attitudes and actions created barriers, discouraging Black families from living in the community. At the same time, minstrel shows put on by various groups in Wilmette from the early 1900s to at least the 1940s ridiculed Black people under the guise of harmless entertainment.
Some Wilmette residents have organized and spoken out against discrimination and inequality. The members of the Baha’i House of Worship, with their motto of world unity and tolerance, the Wilmette Human Relations Committee (founded in 1963), the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council (founded in 1972, renamed Open Communities), and the “Wake Up Wilmette! Walk To End Racism” protest in 2020 are a few examples.
Please note: This exhibit contains racist imagery and language. The Wilmette Historical Museum does not condone the use of racist slurs or stereotypes, and is committed to anti-racism. In addition, while this exhibit is limited in scope by our museum’s available resources, we hope the content here can be a launching place for further study of the effect of systemic racism on Wilmette’s history. We have not covered here the discriminatory practices extended to other non-White, non-Protestant people, but these practices did exist.