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Denver has a rich African-American heritage, from the jazz greats who played here, to extensive libraries and museums, to modern dance performances and music festivals. Check out these ways to explore the vibrant community. 

No visit is complete without experiencing African-American cultural influences in the historic Five Points neighborhood, one of the nation’s first business districts to be predominantly African-American owned. Considered the “Harlem of the West” in the early 20th century, many of the world’s greatest jazz musicians played here, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis and is home to several first-rate jazz clubs today.

Just blocks from the city center, you’ll find the impressive Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, housing an extensive collection of exhibits and reference materials that trace black history in the West. It was named after Omar Blair, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and Elvin R. Caldwell, a local politician. Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb’s office, the city’s first African-American mayor, has been re-created. The library also houses extensive collections of publications, personal papers, church histories and artworks that document everything from political to music history.

A short walk from the Blair-Caldwell Library is the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. The museum details the contributions blacks made to the settlement of the American West and brings the stories vividly alive through historic photographs and rare artifacts.

The building itself was once the home of Dr. Justina Ford, Colorado’s first African-American female doctor. Nearby, the Stiles African American Heritage Center celebrates the positive contributions made by African-Americans through guided tours, cultural exhibits, artifacts and memorabilia.

In addition, local favorites like the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company present original productions that utilize the universal language of dance to honor African-American heritage.

If you visit Denver in January, you’ll be here to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration, coined the “Marade” (march and parade combined). Events begin in Denver’s City Park and culminate at the State Capitol. Statues of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other civil rights heroes join together to form the “I Have a Dream” monument in City Park, a moving tribute to Dr. King.

Every spring the neighborhood hosts the Five Points Jazz Festival, highlighting the best of the national and local jazz scenes. In June, the Juneteenth Music Festival is a party of music, food and dance in celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. More than 100,000 people attend each year. In July, the popular Colorado Black Arts Festival gives local artists a venue for exhibiting their work.

Whatever the season, the sights, sounds, unique flavors and colorful history of Denver are sure to set the stage for an exceptional cultural experience.

HISTORICAL SPOTLIGHT: BARNEY FORD, PIONEERING HOTELIER AND RESTAURANTEUR  

 

2018 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - Barney Ford

Barney Ford

Barney Ford has one of the most remarkable stories of anyone who has ever been in Colorado’s hospitality industry. He was posthumously inducted into the Denver & Colorado Travel Industry Hall of Fame.