Black History in Seattle

~posted by Abby B.

At the library, every month is Black History Month. We get questions and requests for African American history, culture and fiction throughout the year. In honor of the nationally recognized celebration, we’re shining a spotlight on Black History in Seattle. Here are some great resources to explore if you want to learn more about African American experiences in the Emerald City from the Victorian era to the present day.

Seattle’s Black Victorians, 1852-1901 by Esther Mumford. Mumford’s landmark history provides a window into the lives of some of Seattle’s earliest African American citizens. Mumford is a leading authority on the history of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest and one of the founders of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State.

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District, From 1870 Through the Civil Rights EraPeople_in_a_Central_Area_backsteps_and_driveway_October_1978 by Quintard Taylor. Taylor, Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Washington and president of, examines the development of the black community in the Central District and compares and contrasts it with the national history of urban African America.

My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon. Cofounder of Seattle’s Black Panther Party chapter at age 19, Dixon recalls his experiences as an activist in the turbulent era from 1968 to the late 1970s in this personal, heartfelt account.

Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in SeattleRhythm in colors by James W. Washington, 1911-2000 by Paul De Barros. De Barros’ history of Seattle jazz sheds light on a community that is frequently neglected in most jazz histories. Vintage photographs and interviews with musicians such as Ernestine Anderson, Quincy Jones, and Ray Charles bring the city’s lively jazz scene in the 1940s and 1950s to life.

Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Forgotten Soul of the 1960s and ‘70s This 2009 documentary explores the vibrant soul and funk scene that emerged in Seattle’s Central District during the civil rights era. Local label Light in the Attic Records has also released a CD of the same name featuring many of the artists who appear in the film.

For more books, CDs, DVDs, and online resources on Seattle Black history, check out this list of titles. Happy Black History Month!

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