Albert R. Lee was a pioneer for African-Americans on the University of Illinois campus.
An exhibit at the University of Illinois Archives documents his official role on campus and his work on behalf of African-American students, as well as his involvement in the community and his family. The exhibit coincides with the 70th anniversary of Lee’s death, as well as the 50th anniversary of Project 500, which sought to increase the number of African-American students on campus.
Lee was a member of the U. of I. president’s staff, starting as a messenger and rising to the position of chief clerk. He was the second African-American to work at the university.
Unofficially, he served in the role of dean for African-American students in the first half of the 20th century. Lee provided guidance for students in getting admitted to the U. of I. and helped them find housing and work. His connection with the black community and churches created a network of families willing to open their homes to students when they weren’t allowed to live in campus housing or eat in campus restaurants.