The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Glennette Tilley Turner

Educator and historical researcher Glennette Tilley Turner was born November 23, 1933 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her mother, Phyllis, was a teacher, and her father, John, was the first executive director of the SCLC. As a child, Turner moved several times with her family, first to Florida, and then to Illinois. After graduating from high school, she attended Lake Forest College, earning her B.A. in 1955, and she later returned to school at Goddard College to earn her master’s degree in 1977.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Turner first went to work in advertising, but made the switch to education in 1962. That year, she was hired by the Chicago public school system, and she remained there for four years. In 1966, Turner went to work for the Maywood-Melrose Park public schools, and in 1968, she began teaching in the Wheaton-Warrenville public schools. She remained there for the next twenty years. Today, Turner supervises student teachers at National-Louis University.

In addition to her work as a teacher, Turner is a historian, and has focused much of her research efforts on the Underground Railroad. Her first book, The Underground Railroad in DuPage County, Illinois, was published in 1978, and since then she has continued to write and conduct research. Most recently, she has published The Underground Railroad in Illinois. Turner has also written collections of biographies of notable African Americans, and she serves as an advisor to the National Park Service, where she helps plan programs for the national historic Underground Railroad trail.

Turner lectures widely on the history of the Underground Railroad, and she has been honored numerous times both as an educator and historian. She is the recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Award, the Alice Browning Award from the International Black Writers Conference, and she is a member of numerous historical organizations.

Turner and her husband have two grown children. They reside in Illinois.

Glennette TIlly Turner was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 12, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.125

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/12/2004

Last Name

Turner

Maker Category
Middle Name

Tilley

Schools

West Aurora High School

Lake Forest College

Excelsior Elementary

Goddard College

Crosby-Garfield School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days, weekends

First Name

Glennette

Birth City, State, Country

Raleigh

HM ID

TUR02

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Underground Railroad Locations

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/23/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lamb Chops

Short Description

Elementary school teacher and historian Glennette Tilley Turner (1933 - ) taught in Wheaton-Warrenville Public Schools for twenty years. Turner has also served as a supervisor for student teachers at National-Louis University, and is a published historian, who focused much of her research efforts on the Underground Railroad.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Maywood-Melrose Park Public Schools

Wheaton-Warrenville Public Schools

National-Louis University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1764,33:2100,38:9828,144:26355,327:27048,338:27510,346:64514,919:77568,1154:78576,1164:78936,1169:87432,1353:88368,1368:98490,1477:100218,1504:100506,1509:101730,1532:102018,1537:102882,1556:111274,1620:111578,1625:114466,1670:116062,1687:118874,1733:120774,1758:121154,1764:122750,1787:123282,1796:123586,1801:133576,1899:133844,1904:134246,1913:134715,1922:137931,2003:143224,2124:145301,2165:149524,2174:153980,2243$0,0:288,4:1536,71:2496,94:3648,164:13536,290:14496,305:41950,603:50950,784:51670,793:52030,798:52480,804:53380,817:55810,860:78330,1176:81850,1241:88002,1298:96865,1409:97197,1414:100932,1471:108740,1526:111115,1561:117480,1652:118145,1671:119490,1687:126497,1852:127806,1873:128345,1886:128730,1892:129269,1901:136640,1995:137080,2001:145968,2225:158424,2371:158732,2376:160426,2411:184900,2804
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Glennette Tilley Turner's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner talks about her maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her maternal ancestors' experiences in Holt County, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner explains how her maternal great-grandfather abandoned his family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner shares stories from her mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her mother's experiences growing up in Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her mother's role model Colonel Otis B. Duncan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes one of her mother's experiences with racism growing up in Springfield, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her mother's decision to attend college and how her parents met in North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Glennette Tilley Turner talks about her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes a paternal great uncle's attempt to be seated in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her paternal uncle's run for reelection in the North Carolina state legislature

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father and grandfather's skill at accounting

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes Robert Glenn's enslavement

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes Robert Glenn's reunion with his family and name change

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's familiarity with Frederic H. Hammurabi Robb

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner talks about Frederic H. Hammurabi Robb

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's activities at the University of Chicago in the late-1920s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her earliest childhood memories of Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner recalls visiting family in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner remembers her close friend and tattling on a classmate at Crosby-Garfield School in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner recalls moving to St. Augustine, Florida and listening to her father's stories

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's relationships with African American academics

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's involvement in the Voting Rights Campaign in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner explains how her father was invited by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her father's familiarity with notable African American ministers

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her maternal grandmother's pull toy invention

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Glennette Tilley Turner lists the schools she attended

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes moving to Aurora, Illinois for high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her experiences living with an elderly couple in Aurora, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Glennette Turner describes writing experiences at West Aurora High School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her social life during high school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her graduation from West Aurora High School in 1951

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her teachers at West Aurora High School

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner explains why she decided not to attend Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her experiences at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes entering and winning a nationwide poetry competition

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes developing her interest in teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Glennette Tilley Turner recalls writing advertising copy in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes attending school in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner lists the schools in which she taught in Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her initial interest in researching the Underground Railroad

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes pursuing her master's degree through Goddard College's external degree program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner explains how she published her first children's book 'Surprise for Mrs. Burns'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner recalls self-publishing her booklet 'The Underground Railroad in DuPage County, Illinois'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the history of the Underground Railroad in DuPage County and Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes abolitionists and freedom seekers of the Underground Railroad in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the history of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the history of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes Richard and George DeBaptiste

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes 'Running for Our Lives'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes 'The Underground Railroad in Illinois'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner considers the tradition of self-publishing for African American authors

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes being chosen to serve on the Underground Railroad Advisory Committee

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Glennette Tilley Turner reflects upon important events in the history of the anti-slavery movement

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Glennette Tilley Turner reflects upon the lack of information about radical white abolitionists and politicians

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes the importance of sharing stories about the Underground Railroad

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her current work

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes interviewing Harriet Tubman's great-niece

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes her parents' support for her work and her father's work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Glennette Tilley Turner reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Glennette Tilley Turner reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Glennette Tilley Turner describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Glennette Tilley Turner narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

12$2

DATitle
Glennette Tilley Turner describes a paternal great uncle's attempt to be seated in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.
Glennette Tilley Turner describes 'Running for Our Lives'
Transcript
One of the stories--well like so many black communities, they formed a church and one of the stories my father [John Lee Tilley] told was of an uncle who was a minster, Hugh [Granville] Tilley, who served in the North Carolina legislature [North Carolina General Assembly]. And some of the family stories say that he also was elected to come to Washington [D.C.], but it was really at that point that the--Reconstruction was ending. And as I tried to do research on him, I wasn't able to find a record of him having been seated in Washington, but in a Washington City directory, I found him listed as a laborer. So evidently he remained in Washington, I don't know if to save face you know if he just sort of stayed gone for the length of time he would've been serving (laughter) and then sort of went back home, or if he, you know, was hopeful that he would be eventually be seated. And just wanted to you know be there in town and be available, but later he went back and was quite (simultaneous)--$$So, so he thought he was gonna serve in the legislature?$$Yeah, he was, he came to Washington (simultaneous)--$$I mean in [U.S.] Congress.$$Yeah in congress, U.S. Congress and he brought his family (simultaneous)--$$When he got there and (simultaneous)--$$Evidently he was not seated. I haven't been able to find documents you know with any like explanation of that. But he left North Carolina thinking he was going to be seated, and yet, as I look in those records of black congressmen, he--his name doesn't appear, but it does appear in the city directory. So I've just tried to connect the dots, but--but he went back and evidently enjoyed quite a, you know successful later career as, as a minister. One of my father's sisters remembers how he would sometimes travel--well what was long distances then in, you know, a carriage and that where he would let go one day and then speak and come back you know the next day. Which she would sometimes get to go with him and she talked about the foot heater, you know, that they had in the carriage, how they keep their feet warm. And how, you know, they would stay with families and, you know, and just be treated, well not royally but, you know, people would bring out the best food.$Now when did (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Dedication.$$Speaking of Detroit [Michigan] and Chicago [Illinois], now when did--was it after the Fugitive Slave Law that what is now the trail, which is now I-94 [Interstate 94] become like this Underground Railroad highway, sort of, with--$$Well it really that road begins and right, it's called Milan [Ohio], I'm not--it's, it's spelled M-I-L-A-N, but I think, I'm not sure there's a pronunciation Milan or someway, it's an old Indian [Native American] trail going to Detroit. You know that was later paved over and became highway, so you know to give that historical perspective. But it was a, a route--in one of the books I did, 'Running for Our Lives' [Glennette Tilley Turner], the characters in the book escape from slavery in Missouri with their parents, the kids in the book. And they have all these experiences of you know getting across Missouri and hiding in a cave and crossing the river and all. And then there was a white lumberyard owner named Van Duren [ph.] in Quincy [Illinois], in Quincy. But I knew if it was gonna be a children's book, I had to get the parents out of the picture you know and let the focus shift to the kids. So the abolitionists in Quincy put the parents on a train, a boxcar with the thought they'll be reunited in Detroit. And then the kids make their way through Illinois, but by the time they, well they visit John Jones and he's--has a visit from Allan Pinkerton who was also a Chicago area abolitionist. But they, then John Jones after the kids have wintered over to Allan Pinkerton's house in Dundee [Illinois], they take a train, well the Michigan Central [Railroad] really. But by that time I have them have all these harrowing escapes as they came to Illinois so and by that time a little boy has learned to read. So he looks at a crack in the boxcar and reads the names of all these towns in Michigan you know as they pass through so the reader you know knows that they've passed these towns along that same route leading to Detroit. And then in Detroit they're met by, I think they're met by George DeBaptiste and then taken to Second Baptist [Church, Detroit, Michigan] where they meet William Lambert. And--it's been so long since I you know did the book (laughter) I had to stop and think on some of it.$$Well, that's a wonderful kind of story. There's so much history in the Midwest.$$Um-hm and it's been overlooked.$$Heroic history, too, of you know there's a Crosswhite Affair in Marshall, Michigan that accumulated and rose up against slave catchers (simultaneous)--$$That's right and they branded with an SS on it.$$Yeah, the man who--with the branded hand, I mean all these, all these stories. Cassopolis, Michigan, Bear Cave, I was talking about the other day, and--$$Um-hm, um-hm.