- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article originally appeared in July 2020. We are reposting it in honor of Black History Month. It was contributed by Amber Foster, curator of the Batavia Depot Museum. All photos are courtesy of the Batavia Depot Museum.
- If you enjoyed this article, you might also like to read Amazing Stories of Batavia’s Thriving Black Community Date Back To 1855.
Whether it be in service to the community or in the arts, black Batavians have played a key role in the history of the city and the larger world.
This article will focus on Charles Hall and Coralie Boyd, whose lives and legacies inspired many.
Charles Edward Hall was born in Batavia to Joanna and the Rev. Abraham Hall.
In 1900, after graduating high school, Hall was hired as a clerk in the United States Census office by A.J. Hopkins, a congressman from Aurora. He found his calling in the census office, gathering and analyzing data on the African American populations.
In 1905, he compiled statistics and wrote text for “Clay Products of United States” Manufacturers’ Division, Bureau Census. This was the first report on a commercial subject published by government and penned by an African American.
Later, he would be appointed supervisor of United States Census of Distribution and Manufacturing and placed in charge of statistical work relating to the black farmer.
Charles Hall was promoted to the position of specialist in African American Statistics in 1935. This was the highest position ever held by a black American in the Census Department at that time. He published key reports that changed and strengthened the understanding of black communities in the United States.
Hall retired from service in 1938 at the age of 70. He died on Oct. 6, 1952 in Chicago. He is buried in Batavia’s East Side Cemetery.
Coralie Boyd “shared her faith through music” by accompanying the choir at Logan Street Missionary Baptist Church in Batavia. Her husband, the Rev. Julius E. Boyd, presided over the ministry from 1957 to 1966.
At a young age, Boyd was taken to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to live with her grandparents. Her grandfather’s older brother was Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute.
In a 2007 Daily Herald article by Sammi King, Boyd recalls her memories of Booker T. Washington.
“Every Saturday, he would come and pick up my grandfather in his buggy,” she said. Then they would go out and check the land to see how the students’ crops were growing and they would check the buildings to see how the students’ building projects were doing.”
At Tuskegee, Boyd discovered a love for choral music, singing with the Tuskegee Chapel Choir. The famous Tuskegee Choir had been invited to sing at the birthday party of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, NY, and would become the first African American performing organization to appear at Constitution Hall (1946) in Washington D.C.
Boyd received her undergraduate degree in music from Fisk University and a master’s degree in music at Northwestern University. She went on to work as a music teacher and served as music minister at congregations throughout Illinois.
Later in her career, she would hold the distinction of being the first black president of the Peoria Music Teachers Association in Peoria.
Coralie Boyd passed away on July 8, 2009. She lived to be 100 years old and credited her long life to healthy living and a strong faith.
Thanks to Ed and Ruth Tousana, Nicholas Brooks, Regina Hazelwood, Corey Williams, Greg Domel, and Rodney Ross for your contributions to Community, Culture, and Conversations: African American Heritage in Batavia.
The exhibit is on display until December.
Feature Photo Caption
About the Batavia Depot Museum
The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a joint effort between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854 and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place.
From Dec. 18 through March 1, the Depot Museum is open by appointment only. Please call 630-406-5274 to schedule an appointment!
Beginning on March 2, the museum will be open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the museum will be closed.
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