Pembroke Quality of
Pembroke Hopkins Park Sustainability Plan
Pembroke is a historically Black farming community. The first Black residents of Pembroke arrived in the 1860s: the Tetter family led by patriarch Joseph ‘Pap’ Tetter came from North Carolina. They settled on 42 acres of land which was either bought or acquired using adverse possession laws and established Hopkins Park. Many sources repeat the story that Hopkins Park/Pembroke was a stop along the Underground Railroad. The Tetters were the first of a long tradition of Black farmers in Pembroke; people who had been forced to farm as slaves and sharecroppers could now cultivate their own small plots of land. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, some parts of life in Pembroke were racially segregated, but many Black and white farmers worked together, likely more so than in surrounding parts of Kankakee County.
Unlike many surrounding areas with rich soil, the soil in Pembroke is sandy and lower quality. This can present challenges for growing food, but it also allowed many Black families to buy land in an area that became mostly ignored by white farmers. According to the Chicago Field Museum, "soil seen as poor by outsiders is an asset in Pembroke," requiring farmers to be creative and often collaborate. Some local farmers sold agricultural and livestock products for profit locally as well as to Chicago and other midwestern cities.