Make A Way Somehow Project

African American Man & Boy With Bicycle Helmets

Floud, left, and Michael Alexander at Courtyard Apartments, late 1980s

In 1988 Historic Geneva (formerly the Geneva Historical Society) embarked on a project to document the history of Geneva’s African American community. A steering committee comprised of community members (Rosa Blue, Dorothy Cooke, McKinley Flowers, Jr., Jim Henderson, Charlie Kenney, and Gloria Peek) and representatives from Historic Geneva was formed to work with consultant Kathryn Grover to help identify sources of information and a focus for the project’s research. Eventually what became known as the “Make A Way Somehow” project resulted in an exhibit (which opened in February 1991) and the book Make A Way Somehow: African American Life in a Northern Community, 1790-1965 by Kathryn Grover. Since its publication in 1993 Make A Way Somehow has remained our best resource on the African American experience in Geneva. We could not have done that work without the incredible input we received from the Geneva community and beyond. The story, however, ends in 1965,

Three men and a woman watch a man dig with a shovel just outside a building.

In 1970 Herb Sellers breaks ground for an addition to Mount Olive Church while Rev. Elijah Miles, Deacon Leroy Carter, Gladys Williams, and Mayor Michael Simeone look on. The church would be expanded again in 2006.

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Make A Way Somehow’s publication, Historic Geneva has installed a new exhibit called Lift Every Voice: Geneva’s Black Community Since 1966 which is now open at the Geneva History Museum through April 2024. Thanks to community members Lillian Collins, John Cromartie, Bonnie Mathis Flagg, Mark Gramling, Beverly Mathis Hadee, and Beth Kenney Henderson for their contributions to the exhibit.

Our collecting, however, never ends. We are interested in your story . There are several ways to do this:

  • Do an oral history
  • Donate objects, photos, and other materials to our collections
  • Loan us photos and documents to be scanning and added to our collections
  • Complete a History Harvest survey to share your story. You can be anonymous if you like.

We are happy to digitize any relevant materials and return them to you. If you have questions about the project, contact Becky Chapin at archivist@historicgeneva.org or 315-789-5151.