February may be the official Black History Month, but in Denver, the rich heritage of the city's African-American residents past and present is celebrated year-round. The Mile High City and its outlying areas are home to three impressive museums centered on African-American history and culture, as well as several other fascinating landmarks.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2019 EVENTS
Me & The Dream Exhibit
In honor of Black History Month, Cherry Creek Shopping Center is celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Stop by the Grand Court to see the exhibit.
4th Annual Black Women LEAD Summit, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
@Center for Multicultural Excellence, University of Denver, Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science
BW-LEAD provides black female high school students with leadership, academic achievement and community involvement insights and encourages the development of their identities as black women. Black women who are committed to empowering other black women to be change agents in their schools, communities and families will lead interactive workshops. The young women will learn how to share their stories and experiences to provide insight into their identity as a black woman and what it takes to become a leader in their personal life, school and community in tandem with focusing on high academic achievement. During the conference, participants engage in discussions and learn from peers, college students and community leaders. BW-LEAD also helps students prepare for educational success in high school, engage in college preparation activities and create pathways to higher education. This year's theme is focused on promoting wellness. Participants will engage in immersive workshops covering topics centered around holistic health and self-care, themes that are critical to black women on a leadership journey.
Juanita Gray Community Service Awards & Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Induction, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
The Denver Public Library honors African-American men, women and youth who make outstanding contributions to the Denver Metro area or who have accomplished a professional goal in their field.
The exhibition will feature nearly 30 paintings by Denver-born artist Jordan Casteel, who is now based in Harlem, N.Y. This presentation represents Casteel’s first major museum exhibition and provides audiences with a first look at new work by one of the most acclaimed emerging artists working today. The exhibition will bring together a body of work made from 2014 to 2018, with new paintings that reveal Casteel’s evolving practice and a shift in subject matter ranging from cityscapes and subway scenes to women and local business owners.
The Uncomfortable Truth: The History of Racism in America Film Screening, 6-7:45 p.m.
Join us to watch a comprehensive and insightful exploration of the origins and history of racism in America – from slavery to Jim Crow era, from lynchings to protests – told through a very personal and honest story.
Active Minds: Martin Luther King Jr., 1-2 p.m.
It's been more than 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Join Active Minds for a look at his life and legacy, tracing King's rise to prominence from a Baptist pastor to Nobel Prize winner and leader of the civil rights movement, and examining how his efforts impacted history and how his ideas continue to influence our society today.
Souls of the Soil, 2-4 p.m.
Listen to the voices of Erica Papillion-Posey and Christiana McMullen who will perform musical works to highlight the profound contributions of African-American women performers and composers.
African-Americans in the West, 1 –3 p.m.
Terri Gentry from the Black American West Museum in Denver discusses topics ranging from the role of African Americans as exodusters, cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and soldiers to the history of Denver’s Five Points Neighborhood.
Black History Live Tour featuring Maya Angelou Portrayal
@Multiple Denver metro, Cañon City, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Longmont locations, various times
Colorado Humanities presents actor and scholar Becky Stone, who will portray Maya Angelou. The living history portrayal will give insight into how Dr. Angelou wrote and why and reflect on her philosophy of life, which included a strong belief in the power of words. Her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought Angelou international acclaim and a National Book Award upon its publication in 1969. Hailed as a new kind of memoirist, Angelou was one of the first African-American women to publicly discuss her personal life.
Denver Art Song Project presents an intimate and immersive performance as curator Stephanie Ann Ball shares stories of the African-American experience as captured by art song. Expect old favorites and new surprises featuring African-American composers and poets. Stay for a post-performance reception to learn more about the artistic process and meet the artists.
Beyond Five Points: Northeast Denver and Park Hill by Bus, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
@History Colorado Center (and around the city)
Black American West Museum board members join passengers on a bus tour to narrate the history of when both Denver’s real estate “color line” and its African American residents began to move. The early 1950s brought a flood of military personnel and all the sub-service personnel and their families. Communities moved east past Downing Street, then to Franklin, and then to York. Once the line moved past Colorado Boulevard, the black migration into Park Hill exploded. Up through the 1980s, it’s said that 90 to 95 percent of all African-Americans who lived between Downing, Monaco Parkway, 35th Avenue and 26th Avenue were college-educated and working in the military, social service, education or the medical industry. Explore the rich cultural history of African-American migration and its impact on the neighborhoods of Denver! Tour cost includes bus transportation, admission and guides.
African-Americans in the West, 1-2 p.m.
Terri Gentry, volunteer docent at the Black American West Museum, highlights the westward migration of African-Americans and the significant contributions of black cowboys, educators, entrepreneurs, homesteaders, miners and medical and military trailblazers in U.S. history.
Black Music Matters 2.0, 7-9 p.m.
The Vocal Coalition is presenting a special atrium concert featuring students and other local contemporary musicians. Back by popular demand and curated by Denver gospel quartet Spirit of Grace, Black Music Matters 2.0 tells the story of the black experience from Africa to Colorado through music, narration, dance and more.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
BLACK AMERICAN WEST MUSEUM
3091 CALIFORNIA ST.
For decades, Hollywood westerns depicted a Wild West that was populated almost entirely by white people. The Black American West Museum puts this myth to rest permanently by highlighting the prominent role blacks played in the settlement of Colorado as miners, soldiers, homesteaders, schoolteachers, ranchers, blacksmiths, cowboys, lawmen and more. This fascinating museum, located in the former home of Colorado's first black woman doctor, hosts countless photographs, artifacts and interactive exhibits that tell the story of the Wild West through a different lens. One of the Black American West Museum's most intriguing exhibits focuses on Dearfield, a once-bustling black pioneer town, founded in 1910 near Greeley, Colo. Dearfield is now a ghost town, but the museum owns a good portion of the site, and offers informative tours of this eye-opening part of African-American pioneer history. Contact the museum for details.
BLAIR CALDWELL LIBRARY
2401 Welton St.
A veritable treasure trove of educational and archival materials, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library offers traditional library resources, but also hosts illuminating exhibits on the history, literature, art, music, religion and politics of African-Americans in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain West. The historic Five Points neighborhood is highlighted, as are Denver's earliest African-American arrivals. The library is also home to the stirring African American Leadership Gallery, highlighting the often unsung heroes of The Mile High City's black community.
BARNEY FORD HOUSE MUSEUM
111 East Washington Ave., Breckenridge
Barney Ford's story is one of the most amazing pieces of early Colorado history. Born the son of a Virginia slave in 1882, Ford escaped bondage via the Underground Railroad, and made his way to the mountain town of Breckenridge, where he achieved success as a prominent businessman, civic leader, black rights advocate and mine owner. In the late 1800s, Ford and his wife were the wealthiest couple in Breckenridge. Ford's impressive legacy is memorialized at the Barney Ford House Museum, a charming 1882 Victorian home that recreates the way the Ford family lived.
FIVE POINTS NEIGHBORHOOD/WELTON STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT
In 2002, the Denver City Council granted Five Points, a traditionally African-American area, a much-deserved landmark status. The Five Points area included in the Welton Street Historic District was the heart of African-American commerce during the days of segregation. It was also renowned nationwide as the destination for live jazz in Denver - thanks to its more than 50 clubs and bars, it was known in some circles as the "Harlem of the West." Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and other legends all played to packed houses here in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, you can tour the Welton Street Historic District, taking in its classic architecture and unique atmosphere.
STILES AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE CENTER
2607 Glenarm Pl.
An uplifting museum experience in every sense, the Stiles African American Heritage Center celebrates the positive contributions made by African Americans through guided tours, cultural exhibits, artifacts and memorabilia. Located in Five Points, the heart of Denver's historic African-American community, the Center's stated mission is to teach African-American history and to encourage young people to go forward with dignity and pride. Diversity workshops and lectures are offered on a regular basis.