Washington State Historical Society’s activities for all ages to participate in Black History Month, online and in-person

Washington State Historical Society’s activities for all ages to participate in Black History Month, online and in-person

Tacoma, WA – Black History Month is an opportunity to explore the achievements and contributions of Black Americans in our past and honor those in our present. You can explore stories and make connections through online and in-person activities with the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS), including:

·         Join in a special event at MOHAI on February 19: “The Green Book – More than a Guide.” The Negro Motorist Green Book was hailed as the “bible of Black travel.” First published in 1936, the guide identified establishments deemed friendly, safe, and willing to serve Black travelers during the era of Jim Crow segregation and “sundown towns.” This event applies a contemporary lens to segregation, Black migration, and the rise of leisure travel through art, presentations and conversation. Presented by The Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Washington State Historical Society, Black & Tan Hall, Bonnie Hopper-Artist, and Chris Hopper-Producer. Included with admission to MOHAI.

·         See a FREE online exhibition and try your hand at a guided art activity. Take a look through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visits Seattle on the WSHS website. Learn about Dr. King’s visit to Washington State in 1961 as well as civil rights history in Tacoma. Click on “Art Activity with Valencia Carroll” and her video will guide you through how to make your own Right to Dream Star using a downloadable template and materials from around the house.

·         Stroll over to the Bush Family monument on the Capitol Campus. Unveiled in November, 2021, this new monument honors Black pioneer George Bush and his family, who were among the first non-Native settlers in the Washington Territory. George and Isabella’s son William Owen Bush served in the inaugural Washington State Legislature and helped to found the school that became Washington State University. See the monument and the Bush Butternut Tree in Olympia, and read more about the Bush family on the WSHS website: www.washingtonhistory.org/across-washington/washington-black-history-project.

·         Try a civil rights activity for kids at the History Museum. Review a self-guided  Civil Rights Activity for Kids and visit the Washington State History Museum to find answers in the exhibition Washington: My Home. This activity sheet is available at museum admissions.

·         Read about Nettie Craig Asberry, a civil rights activist and suffragist who lived in Tacoma.
Among other accomplishments, Asberry became president of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women, and was a founder of the Tacoma chapter of the NAACP. Download the article (free) from the WSHS website: www.washingtonhistory.org/columbia-magazine.

·         Next month – Go deep into The Negro Motorist Green Book starting March 19 when the Washington State History Museum opens the immersive exhibition, created by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and curated by Candacy Taylor, a leading Green Book scholar and award-winning author, photographer, and documentarian. This multimedia experience shares the national guide’s rich history through photographs, art installations, interactives, historic objects, and recordings from travelers and Green Book business owners.  It also focuses on the vibrant parallel world of African American businesses and the rise of the Black leisure class. Details at www.washingtonhistory.org/exhibits. In advance of seeing the exhibition, you can explore SITES online Green Book experiences for free! Details:  https://negromotoristgreenbook.si.edu/index.html  The exhibition was based on Candacy Taylor’s book, Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America, available at the Tacoma Library.

Black History Month has been officially recognized since 1976, yet its roots date to 1915 when noted scholar and historian Carter G. Woodson participated in events marking the 50th anniversary of emancipation in Illinois. He was one among over ten thousand visitors who lined up to view exhibitions featuring notable accomplishments of Black Americans since the destruction of slavery. Motivated to highlight the Black community’s ongoing contributions and history, Woodson began to publish the Journal of Negro History in 1916, and collaborated with other organizations including his fraternity Omega Psi Phi to create a week formally recognizing Black achievements. They launched Negro History Week in February, 1926. Nurtured by Woodson’s organization, colleagues, and Black college students and communities, the annual one-week event grew and by the 1960s, the longer Black History Month had begun to replace Negro History Week. In 1976 the change became official. Each year there is a theme; this year, it is Black Health and Wellness. Black History Month is an opportunity to explore how history connects us all.


The Washington State Historical Society will hold its 11th annual summer public event on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma. IN THE SPIRIT Native Arts Market and Festival highlights handmade Native American artwork and features musicians, dancers, demonstrators, traditional Native foods, and much more.

In addition to the nearly 20 vendors, some of the performers will include:

  • Vince Redhouse, Grammy-nominated Navajo flute player born and raised in California. He has played music since the age of seven and continues to love creating music. Not only will he be the first performance of the day, but will also be selling his CDs and other merchandise throughout the day as a festival vendor.
  • Alaska Kuteeyaa Dancers, who have performed at the IN THE SPIRIT festival every year since its inception in 2006 and tend to be a crowd favorite. Tiny Barril has an incredible ability to tell native story through song, dance and presence. Adorned in button blankets and masks, the group can transform the museum into a gathering about a fire in the Alaskan wilderness.
  • Rona Yellow Robe Walsh, named the 2014 Native American Museum Awards’ Flutist of the Year. She is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and was born and raised in Montana. Rona has three albums available and has performed at IN THE SPIRIT for several years.
  • The Le-La-La Dancers from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. They have traveled and performed as a traditional Kwakwaka’wakw dance company throughout the world for over 25 years. Their performance will highlight various spiritual entities through dancing, music and masks. They often play a large role in performances at the annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria.

The IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Native Arts Exhibit opened at the History Museum on May 28. Native American artists submitted their works for consideration by a jury who selected pieces for inclusion in the show. The jury then selected the following winners:











During the extent of the juried art exhibit, which can be viewed at www.InTheSpiritArts.org, museum patrons have been voting for their favorite piece. The Washington State Historical Society  will present the winner with the highly-coveted People’s Choice Award during the Aug. 13 festival. The exhibit closes the following day.

This year’s market and festival will take place inside the History Museum due to ongoing construction on the Museum’s outdoor plaza and amphitheater. For more information on the construction project, please visit www.washingtonhistory.org/construction.