BY MORGAN ROSCOW, STAFF WRITER
Lebanon is known as a place that is rich in history, which is far more advanced than the rest of the country in regards to the relations between ethnicities. When segregation was happening, Lebanon was a free town.
According to Belinda McAllister (right), whose family is from Lebanon and has a very
historical background in the town, in 1814 while the rest of the country was in the depths of slavery in Lebanon, blacks and whites could own land and businesses. This was extremely radical for that time period, since just a few years later in Florida in 1817 slaves and Native Americans fought against Andrew Jackson in the First Seminole War (pbs.org).
McAllister said that there were only two places in town that were segregated. That included the first 4 rows at The Looking Glass Playhouse, closest to the stage by the exit, and the soda shop/pharmacy. At the soda shop, blacks could come in and get soda or medicine, but they could not sit down. Whether or not they could not sit down, the fact is that at in this time period of time blacks and whites could be in the same place at the same time, without complete segregation, is profound.
Belinda McAllister grew up in Lebanon. She knows it like the back of her hand, and her family has a long history in Lebanon, living here for at least 100 years, and has even has a role in nationally history. In an interview, McAllister said she is of mixed decent, her mother being German with blond hair and blue eyes, and her father being African American. Her great grandfather built a 3 bedroom home, owned land and farmed in this
town 100 years ago on 513 McAllister Street (left).
Her great grandmother’s aunt, Mamie Turner Rhodes, born June 22, 1874, was the first African American woman to graduate from McKendree in 1895. E-yearbook.com says “Her parents are Young and Mary Turner, who are both American born. They were both slaves before the Civil war. She became a student in McKendree in Sep-tember, 1891, and graduated in June, 1895.”
Both McAllister Street and the McAllister Playground, located at the corner of Prairie Cherry Streets, are named after her grandfather. According to McAllister, Martin Luther King’s idea for the Equal Opportunity Centers derived from her grandfather. He started the NOC in Lebanon and when King came through town, he liked the idea and took it on to a national level.
Not only has her grandfather been a huge uncredited part of national history, McAllister herself has been a part of McKendree history that is continuing to this day. With the help of Dr. Huxford, she started what was known as Students Against Social Injustice (SASI), which eventually emerged with The Center for Public Service, recently renamed The Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service (CCS). She says that at the time SASI and The Center for Public Service was a huge part of the campus, hardly any student was not a part of either one or both, or the organizations.
After starting SASI and being a big role on McKendree’s campus, she had two huge
opportunities given to her: she could either take the scholarship she worked for and study at Cambridge in England, or take the job offer from Habitat for Humanity. She decided to take the job with Habitat for Humanity so that she could go help others, and sold almost all of her things on Dr. Huxford’s lawn to get the money to go to Jamaica, where she eventually became a dual citizen.
Her life has been full of service to others. With her degree being in Sociology-Criminal Justice, she worked at Hoyleton Youth and Family Services through Hoyleton Ministries. Her current occupation is in Miami, where she works as an on call case worker, which is where she is called if there is an at risk situation. She goes to the home and connects in some way with the person/family and helps to defuse the situation and get the person/family help. She is currently looking to move back to the Lebanon area to be with family.