Ethnic Heritage Museum salutes six AKA members

For “Women in History” Month, the African-American Gallery of the Ethnic Heritage Museum pays tribute to six outstanding members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Society.

Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is composed of professional black women. The following are “Ivies beyond the wall” or deceased members who have made major accomplishments in the quality of life in our community.

Caryl Jean Brown

Educated in Chicago schools, Caryl Brown attended Bradley University, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in theater and a master of arts in speech communication. For 12 years, she taught speech and humanities at Rock Valley College. She co-authored a text used at Northern Illinois University and helped organize and judge the nationally recognized Land of Lincoln Speech Tournament.

Brown was affiliated for many years with the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association, National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) and NAACP.

Brown was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority for more than 30 years and held almost all positions within the sorority, including undergraduate advisor and parliamentarian.

Odie B. Campbell

Odie B. was the wife of Rev. W. D. Campbell, who served as the pastor of Washington Park Christian Church, and was director of West End Family and Child Care Development Project.

Mrs. Campbell was a longtime educator in the Rockford Public Schools system. Her last teaching assignment was at O.F. Barbour School. She was devoted to young people in the community, as illustrated by her involvement in the Winnebago County Big Sisters Program.

Constance V. Renick Lane

After graduating from high school at age 16, Constance Charmichael was denied entrance to Rockford College because she was “too young.” She received a degree in mathematics, with honors, from West Virginia State University. Lane earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Northwestern University and was hired as the first black teacher in District 205 in 1954. By retirement in 1985, she had served as a teacher, a principal and an assistant superintendent for elementary education.

Later, she served as a minority teacher recruiter and special assistant on integration. She also taught math classes at Rockford College for 16 years. She was a longtime community affairs activist and served on various boards. As president of the Rockford Public Library Board, Lane was instrumental in the opening of a branch library at Lewis Lemon School.

In December 1999, the Rockford Register Star recognized Lane as one of the “100 People of the 20th Century in the Rock River Valley.”

Marcella Eason Harris

Harris was a trailblazer on many fronts. Her educational background included receiving a bachelor’s degree at Wilberforce University and a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University (Chicago) and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana).

Her professional success was in the field of social work and education. She excelled as a psychiatric social worker and administrator of the Janet Wattles Mental Health Center. She was the first black person elected to a public office in Rockford, serving from 1965 to 1969 as the first black on the Rockford Public School Board.

In December 1999, the Rockford Register Star recognized Harris as one of the “100 People of the 20th Century in the Rock River Valley.”

Emma E. Stubblefield

Stubblefield received a BA degree in home economics from Houston Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, and a master of arts degree in elementary education from Texas Southern University in Houston. Stubblefield taught school for eight years in Texas and for 25 years at Kishwaukee Elementary School in Rockford.

She was active in the Court Street Quilters and United Methodist Women. In addition to Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, she was also a member of the National Education Association.

Harriet Anna Treadwell

Harriet, the granddaughter of Peter Blakely, one of Rockford’s early pioneers, was an active participant in setting up a child daycare at Booker Washington Center after World War II.

She graduated from Rockford Central High School and Wilberforce/Central State in Ohio, where she received her bachelor of science degree in education, later doing graduate work at NIU in education.

For five years, she ran the blood bank at St. Anthony Hospital. She was employed 30 years by the Rockford Board of Education, where she taught as a 3rd and 4th grade teacher. She spent her first 12 years at Kishwaukee Elementary School, also serving at William Dennis, Ellis and McIntosh Elementary schools. She spent the last 10 years of her career as an instructional consultant, retiring in 1985.

In December 1999, the Rockford Register Star recognized Treadwell as one of the “100 People of the 20th Century in the Rock River Valley.”

The Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., is a six-room house built in 1850. A distinct ethnic group sponsors each room in the house: African American, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish and Hispanic.

The exhibit will be on display until the end of April. The museum is open every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free to members, and for non-members $2 for adults and $1 for children younger than 12. Tours can be arranged by calling 962-7402. The museum is handicap accessible.

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