For Black History Month, we're celebrating figures and events in Colorado and Denver history. These are just a few of the many fascinating Coloradoans of African American descent in our local history. For more information, check out this list of local figures or visit the Black American West Museum (free admission Saturday, February 25th).
Jim Beckwourth (1798-1867)
Beckwourth was an early fur-trapper of the Rocky Mountain regions and a co-founder of Pueblo, CO. Did you know that about a third of 19th century American cowboys were of African American descent? You can learn about their lives at the Black American West Museum in Denver and learn about Beckwourth's adventures online!
The Douglass Brothers (1840-1908)
After serving in the first black regiment in the Civil War, two of Frederick Douglass' sons moved to Denver. Lewis and Frederick Jr. created Denver's first black school, ran a mortuary, a restaurant on California Street and petitioned for Colorado to remain a territory until all men could vote. Learn more!
Sara Breedlove, also called Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Breedlove was the first woman in America to become a self-made millionaire. In one speech she said, "I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations....I have built my own factory on my own ground." Learn how she started her business in Denver.
Marie Anderson Greenwood (1912- )
Greenwood was the first African American teacher in Denver. In high school, a dean told her she could only "work in somebody's kitchen or clean somebody's house." "It hurt, it hurt deeply," Anderson said. "I left home office and went to the girls' room. I cried, I pounded on the walls; I said, 'I'm going to show her.'" Watch a 9News interview with Greenwood.
Rachel B. Noel (1918-2008)
Rachel B. Noel was the first African American woman elected to Colorado public office and the first African American elected to the Denver Public School Board. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding the Noel Resolution to integrate Denver Public Schools. Read more about her work integrating Denver schools. DSST: Montbello Middle School will open on the Rachel B. Noel campus in Denver's Far Northeast in Fall 2018.
Keyes v. Denver Public Schools (1973)
Denver has a long history of school segregation. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated the racial integration of Denver Public Schools and DPS buses were bombed in response (below). This CPR story interviews the lawyer who argued for integration and this Denver Post article speaks to re-segregation in Denver schools since the end of forced busing in 1995.
Evie Dennis (1924 - )
Evie Garrett Dennis was the first female and first African American superintendent of DPS. Dennis has always been a staunch advocate for Title IX and for school integration. Read more about her work. DSST: Green Valley Ranch Middle and High Schools are located on the Evie Dennis campus.