WSHS Honors Black Washingtonians Through Virtual Talks

In honor of Black History Month, the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) is highlighting two free virtual talks this February. In addition, a collaborative development facilitated by an advisory committee is underway for a new resource called the Washington Black History Project, an educational tool that will explore and celebrate the history of Black Washingtonians year-round.

The first virtual program, A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, will air on Facebook Live Thursday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. Hear Dr. Daudi Abe, author, Seattle Central College professor, and University of Washington alumnus, as he discusses his recent book Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle that takes a deeper look at the journey of Seattle’s hip hop and rap community.

The second, the virtual lecture From Migration to Mark Making: George Bush, Jacob Lawrence, and the Impact of Black Pioneers in Washington State, will air on Facebook Live on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), an acclaimed African-American artist and former University of Washington faculty member, was commissioned by the State of Washington for a series of paintings that are held in the Society’s collection. The paintings depict George Bush, 1790-1863, the first Black pioneer to settle in Washington. The talk explores the history and contributions of these two men.

The discussion, in conjunction with the Northwest African American Museum and KNKX, will highlight the following speakers, Jason Turner, museum educator at the Northwest African Museum; Gwen Whiting, lead exhibitions curator at the WSHS; Leslie King-Hammond, a Jacob Lawrence scholar and founding director at the Center for Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art; and Beth Turner, author of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle.

“African American history in the state of Washington is extensive, abundant, and empowering,” LaNesha DeBardelaben, executive director of the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle and advisory committee member for the WSHS Washington Black History Project, said in a release. “The remarkable legacies of Black luminaries George Bush and Jacob Lawrence, in particular, are full of inspiration. Their achievements and creativity have made our state a better and more beautiful place for all.”

Through state funding received in 2020, the Washington Black History Project continues to pursue a variety of objectives, led by its advisory committee.

One of the initiatives to be unveiled is a monument to commemorate, not only early pioneer George Bush, but his son, Owen Bush, the first Black legislator in the state, who also helped found Washington State University.

The monument will be located on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. It is adjacent to an actual tree with origins to Bush Prairie, the Bush homestead near Tumwater, having arrived initially with George Bush upon his migration here from Missouri.

In addition, the advisory committee is partnering with an educational consultant, Dr. Maurice Dolberry to launch a new free Washington Black History app to further enhance learning about the many significant accomplishments of African Americans throughout the region’s history.

“As 21st-century thinkers, we recognize that Black history is Washington history. It’s not something to be relegated to a one-month focus, but rather is and has always been all around us,” said Mary Mikel Stump, audience engagement director at WSHS in the release. “Our Washington Black History projects will bring additional focus to this important history in our state.”

The WSHS remains closed until further notice, but continues to provide online programs available to the public. Check here for updates.

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