WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Multiple late Black leaders are being recognized for Black History Month at Oak Ridge Cemetery located in Springhill, Illinois through a new educational card program.

While Oak Ridge Cemetery is mostly known for being the site of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, every guest that visits the cemetery during Black History Month will be given a free set of four educational cards that feature a Black leader, with their photo, a summary of their lives, the location of their gravesite, and a QR code for further information.

“At the Abraham Lincoln Tomb historic site, visitors are surrounded by great leaders in history, and we have a responsibility to help our guests connect to key people, places, and time periods,” Governor JB Pritzker said. “The education cards are a great way to spark interest and encourage guests of all ages to learn more about Illinois and U.S. history.”

The cards originated from the cemetery’s Walk Hike Bike History program and eventually developed into the Black History Month educational card series to help promote more of the unique history of the area.

“A lot of people tell us that that they thought the people that we were introducing them to, the historical figures, were fascinating and they’ve never heard of these people before and so that really resonated with me. I’m just glad that people responded to what we were doing,” said Justin Blandford, Superintendent of Springfield Historic Sites.

The four following leaders are highlighted for Black History Month:

  • Lewis Martin: Escaped slavery and enlisted in the Union Army. Block 4, 2, 22.
  • Eva Carroll Monroe: Dedicated her life to helping Black children. Block 40, Range A, Grave 17, Section 1.
  • Anderson Holman: Created affordable housing at a time when many people faced discrimination. Block 24, Section 3, 10, 59.
  • Charles Lockhart: Was a leader in fire safety for more than 35 years. Block 40 A/B.

Blandford noted that a lot of research and time went into making and planning the cards after spending time choosing which leaders to feature for the month.

“There’s a lot of people that come to Lincoln every day, I mean at all times of the day there’s almost always somebody walking up, and they have no idea of the great history that is surrounding them in Oak Ridge Cemetery. So we saw Black History Month as a good month to start sharing these cards and encouraging people to think more broadly about the history that surrounds us in the places that we visit,” Blandford explained. “I guess maybe just there’s something about having something valuable in your hand and being able to connect with something larger than ourselves in a small tangible way like a little token or memento that helps.”

The success of the educational cards for Black History Month has spurred the idea to also be applied to Women’s History Month Blandford explained. There will be cards featuring philanthropist Susan Lawrence Dana’s home, designed by architect Frank Llyod Wright, in the future.

The cards will be available until Feb. 28 and any family, organization, or school that is unable to visit the site is welcome to request the cards by emailing DNR.HistoricSpringfield@illinois.gov. The Lincoln Tomb is open for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and walking/biking tours begin in April. For those interested in learning more about the cards, the Walk Hike Bike History program, or any other events, visit the Oak Ridge Cemetery website.