- Professor Emeritus
- Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History
Ph.D. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis,1977
I am a specialist in African American history in the American West with over four decades of research and teaching experience in this field at a number of institutions of higher education including currently the University of Washington, Seattle. My intellectual interest in African American history in the west began when I was an assistant professor at Washington State University in 1971. That interest continues to be driven by the desire to understand African American communities in a region which historically has not been identified with black history and culture. Understanding that history allows challenges to long held paradigms about both the history of the west as a region and the history of African America. In recent years I have taught courses at both the graduate level on African American urban history and African American urban history in the West. I have also taught the Department’s graduate seminar in African American history. My undergraduate offerings include the survey history of the United States, the History of African Americans in the American West, African American history since 1900, and the Great Debates in African American history. I am also an adjunct professor in the American Ethnic Studies Department and in the Center for Multicultural Education
My first major monograph, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District From 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994) examined the Central District of Seattle, a residential section of the city between downtown and Lake Washington which until the 1970s was the home of the overwhelming majority of African Americans in the city. My study traces the growth of the black community from its first few black residents in the 1860s to its population of nearly forty thousand in 1970. Forging examines how black life in this small pre-World War II community was permanently changed by the influx of African Americans from all over the nation in the 1940s. It also examines the curious history of race in the major city farthest removed from the Deep South to understand why that story both paralleled and diverged from the larger national history of urban African America.
In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998), my second major book, examined the history of African Americans in the 19 state region stretching from the 98th meridian to the Pacific Ocean. That examination began with the first Spanish-speaking arrivals of African descent who settled in and often founded major cities in the region including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, Santa Fe, and San Antonio. The book also described the experiences of 19th Century English-speaking explorers, mountain men, cowboys, and buffalo soldiers. The work, however, challenged earlier studies of African Americans in the west by focusing on the early black urban communities that emerged in the region and formed the foundation for 20th and 21st century black urban populations. Finally In Search described the 20th century black west placing in historical context the World War II migration, the civil rights and black power movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and the growing dichotomy between inner city and suburban life of African Americans in the post 1970 period. In Search of the Racial Frontier was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in History in 1999.
My current project tentatively titled Urban Archipelago: African American Communities in the Cities of the 20th Century West, is in many ways the culmination of my four decades long research on black women and men in the region. This work analyzes the rise of black communities in the major urban areas of the region, focusing on the role of race, class, and gender in shaping these areas. The work emphasizes common themes in that growth; the discriminatory labor market, restrictive covenants and housing, the impact of World War II, but it also focuses on the specific and widely varied experiences of African Americans in cities as economically, culturally, and racially diverse as Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Finally the study will examine the spatial decline of most of these communities beginning in the 1980s and blacks vacate them for surrounding suburbs and in some instances initiate a return migration to the South.
Since 2008 I have been the Editor of the Race and Culture in the American West Series for the University of Oklahoma Press. I am the director of BlackPast.org a 10,000 page website on African American and global African history. With an online encyclopedia of more than 3,000 entries written by more than 500 volunteers on six continents, as well as primary documents which include speeches, government reports, court decisions, treaties, nine timelines, and nine bibliographies with more than 5,000 entries, this 501(c)( 3) project created in 2007 is the largest free and unrestricted resource of its type in the Internet.
My UW Faculty Affiliations include:
Click here to view a more detailed discussion of my graduate teaching and research interests as well as profiles of my current graduate students.
Dr. Sam, Soldier, Educator, Advocate, Friend: The Autobiography of Samuel Eugene Kelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010).
America-I-Am Black Facts: The Story of a People Through Timelines, 1601-2000 (New York: Tavis Smiley Books, 2009).
From Timbuktu to Katrina: Readings in African American History, Vols. 1& 2 (Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008).
Shirley Ann Wilson Moore and Quintard Taylor, eds. African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003).
Lawrence B. de Graaf, Kevin Mulroy and Quintard Taylor, eds. Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California, 1769-1997 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).
In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998).
The Forging of a Black Community: A History of Seattle's Central District, 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
"Ambiguous Legacy: Theodore Roosevelt and the Buffalo Soldiers," Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal 31:1-2 (Winter-Spring 2010):37-42.
"Blacks and Asians in a White City: Japanese Americans and African Americans in Seattle, 1890-1940,"Western Historical Quarterly 22:4 (November 1991). Reprinted in Hazel M. McFerson, Blacks and Asians: Crossings, Conflict and Community (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2006.
"Texas: The South Meets the West: The View Through African American History,"Journal of the West44:2 (Spring 2005):44-52.
"Urban Black Labor in the West, 1849-1949: Reconceptionalizing the Image of a Region," in Joe W. Trotter, Earl Lewis and Tera W. Hunter, eds., The African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
"'Justice is Slow But Sure,': The Civil Rights Movement in the West, 1950-1970,” Nevada Law Journal5:1 (Fall 2004):84-92.
"Seeking Sunbelt Freedom: African Americans in the Urban Southwest, 1865-1970," OAH Magazine of History 18:1 (October 2003).
"In Search of African American History in the Trans-Mississippi West," in Patricia Limerick, William Travis, and Julia Hobson, Eds. The Handbook for the New West (W.W. Norton, 2002).
"Susie Revels Cayton, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, and the Campaign for Social Justice in the Pacific Northwest," in William Robbins, ed., The Great Northwest: The Search for Regional Identity (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2001).
"From Esteban to Rodney King: Five Centuries of African American History in the West," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 46:4 (Winter 1996). Reprinted in Walter Nugent and Martin Ridge, eds.,The American West: The Reader (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).
"'There Was No Better Place to Go': The Transformation Thesis Revisited, African American Migration to the Pacific Northwest, 1940-1950," in Paul Hirt, ed., Terra Pacific: People and Place in Northwest America and Western Canada (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1998).
"African Americans on the American Frontier," in Howard R. Lamar, ed., The Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 2500 word essay on 19th Century Western black history.
"African American Men in the American West," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 569 (May 2000).
"Race and Ethnicity in the Southwest: African American and Arizona History," in Arizona Attorney 34:6 (February 1998).
"Mary Ellen Pleasant," in Glenda Riley and Richard Etulain, eds., By Grit and Grace: Women Who Shaped the Pioneer West (Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 1997).
"A View of the Buffalo Soldiers Through Indigenous Eyes: A Response" Raven Chronicles 7:2 (Summer/Fall 1997).
"Through the Prism of Race: The Meaning of African American History in the American West," in Clyde A. Milner, ed., A New Significance: Re-Envisioning the History of the American West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
"’The Civil Rights Movement in the American West: Black Protest in Seattle, 1960-1970,’” Journal of Negro History 80:1 (Winter 1995).
"Swinging the Door Wide: World War II Wrought a Profound Transformation in Seattle's Black Community," Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History 9:2 (Summer, 1995).
"Slaves and Free Men: Blacks in the Oregon Country, 1840-1860," Oregon Historical Quarterly 83:2 (Summer, 1982). Reprinted in Sucheng Chan, Douglas Henry Daniels, Mario T. Garcia, and Terry P. Wilson, eds., Peoples of Color in the American West (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1994).
(with Donald Grinde) "Red v. Black: Conflict and Accommodation in the Post-Civil War Indian Territory, 1865‑1907," American Indian Quarterly 8:3 (Summer, 1984) Reprinted in Sucheng Chan, Douglas Henry Daniels, Mario T. Garcia, and Terry P. Wilson, eds., Peoples of Color in the American West (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1994).
"African Americans in Pacific Northwest History: Retrospect and Prospect," Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History 7:3 (Fall, 1993).
"Disparate Images: Black Life in Contemporary Japan," Review of Regge Life's Documentary film, Struggle and Success: The African-American Experience in Japan in Annual Bulletin of the University of Oregon Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (August 1993).
"The Emergence of Black Communities in the Pacific Northwest, 1865-1910," Journal of Negro History64:4 (Fall, 1979) Recipient, Carter G. Woodson Award for Best JNH Article, 1978‑1979. Reprinted in Kenneth L. Kusmer, ed., Black Communities and Urban Development in America, 1720-1990 10 Vols., (Hamden, Ct: Garland Publishing Inc, 1991), Vol. 4, From Reconstruction to the Great Migration, 1877-1917.
"Black Urban Development: Another View, Seattle's Central District, 1910-1940, A Case Study," Pacific Historical Review 58:4 (November 1989) Reprinted in Kenneth L. Kusmer, ed., Black Communities and Urban Development in America, 1720-1990 10 Vols., (Hamden, Ct: Garland Publishing Inc, 1991), Vol. 5, The Great Migration and After, 1917-1930.