Local Heroes in Black History (and the Landmarks Named for Them)

Just as Black history is American history, the history of Black people in Seattle is local history. Here are several ways to learn more about the Black historical figures who helped make Seattle what it is today, and to remind ourselves that Black History Month can, and should, be observed every month.

Event Graphic for History Cafe: Paying Tribute to Seattle's Black Landmarks and Their Namesakes, at MOHAI 2/15/2023
Click the image above to register for MOHAI’s free event on February 15th.

A great way to start is to learn more about these landmarks named for local Black heroes. First, register to attend this free History Café event, on February 15th, at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI): Paying Tribute to Seattle’s Black Landmarks and their Namesakes. Next, take a look at the website of MOHAI’s partner for this event, HistoryLink (“The free online encyclopedia of Washington state history”), and their Black History Resources Guide to Influential People, then follow the links to read articles on each one. Visit the newly reopened Northwest African American Museum, and learn about the people involved in its history and founding too. Another wonderful resource for Black history, local and beyond, is BlackPast, founded by renowned local historian, Quintard Taylor.

Book Cover - The Forging of a Black Community by Quintard TaylorWhen you’re ready to dive deeper with books, check out the second edition of Taylor’s classic work, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era, which features a new foreword and afterword. Then, take a walking tour of the Central District with HistoryLink. Explore more books about local Black history, culture, artists and other figures with our booklist, Black History in Seattle. And take a look at the digitized photographs and other artifacts from the Library’s Black Culture and History online special collection.

Stay tuned for additional posts about specific people and the places named in their honor!

Note: If you’re not familiar with the history of the Central District and wonder why so many of the landmarks named for Black historical figures are located there, it’s not a coincidence—Seattle has a deep history of segregation and redlining, which you can learn more about on the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project’s resource, Segregated Seattle.

~ Posted by Emily G.

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