“The Black American West Museum in Denver is a must-see place if you are ever in Denver. Learn about the history of Black cowboys and homesteaders in Denver and the American West.”
Recently, I took a trip to Denver Colorado. I am originally from the state of California, if you were curious, so I am familiar with the American West. As a child, we took a lot of road trips to the surrounding states of Nevada, Arizona, Washington and even Colorado sometimes. I had not been back in years. These days, everyone is going for the marijuana tourism, or hiking, but I wanted to try to do something cultural while I was there. Luckily, I found the Black American West Museum by chance. The museums boasts a large collection of the contributions of ” black cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and buffalo solders on the development of the West.” Growing up, my Father and Grandfather would sit around and watch old Westerns. I always wondered why they were into such things because none of the Cowboys were Black. Later, I learned that 1 in 3 Cowboys were Black, and that the name itself came from the derogatory terms Black men were referred to in those days ( boy ). I learned so much that day, and I wanted to share at least three reasons why you should visit the Black American West Museum if you ever find yourself in Denver.
- Learn about little known history of the Black Cowboys & Horsemen- I mentioned that I knew about the existence of Black Cowboy’s but I could not tell you any names. This museum lists those men and their respective stories. Men like Nat Love ( a black Cowboy), Bill Picket ( a champion bulldogger), Jim Beckwourth (who help discover Yellowstone National Park) just to name a few. It was fascinating to hear about how these men managed in such times.
- Learn about Black Homesteaders that created thriving Black towns– While the museum featured history about the Black homesteader movement in general, they had a video exhibit highlighting OT Jackson and Dearfield, Colorado. Dearfield was a dream of Oliver Toussaint Jackson, a business who was able to purchase the land. While it’s now a ghost town, due to the arid soil, at it’s height, Dearfield had over 300 residents. They had a schools, restaurants, and the residents sold their crops to make ends meet. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression and extreme drought, the town could not sustain itself and it’s growing debt. The residents, however, to this day refuse to sell the land in hopes of restarting the community again someday.
- Learn about Colorado’s Black history- On my trip, I did not see too many Black people, and overall Colorado’s Black population is about 5%. Most of the things I saw in the museum, I never know about. For example, Mary Fields, who was a legendary mail carrier, or how all railway porters were Black until the 1950’s (they named them all George). I also learned about prominent Black Americans such as Dr. Joseph Henry Peter Westbrook ( who named Dearfield), & Justina Ford (Colorado’s First Black Female Doctor) and the person’s house who the museum is in.
I loved this museum, and I am super happy that I took the time to get over and find it. It’s small, but it packs a punch. You can also go to their website and donate to keep the museum alive and growing.
- Black History Month in Colorado. Huffington Post – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/a-look-back-at-colorados-_n_1311366.html?slideshow=true#gallery/209452/10.
- Lewis Price– https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33293595/lewis-price
- Dearfield, Colorado. Black Past.org – http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/dearfield-colorado