HELENA - Historian Ellen Baumler took a look back at the impact that African Americans had on the Treasure State during its early years during a presentation on the first day of this Black History Month.
Baumler, an interpretive historian at the Montana Historical Society, presented a profile of African Americans in the state at Helena College on Thursday.
“Some of the stories coming to light are really wonderful stories and the contributions of this particular minority is really astounding," Baumler said.
According to Baumler, historians like herself are working to gather more data about African Americans in Montana but have run into roadblocks.
Baumler said the problem is that much of it is oral history, and some of the history may not have ever been passed down from one generation to another.
Nonetheless, Baumler spoke of many African American individuals coming to Montana for a variety of reasons - some leaving slavery and others were involved in the military.
“These folks really made a wonderful impact on the early territory and the state,” Baumler said.
Baumler said Montana had its largest proportion of African Americans back in 1890, and even then it was just one percent. As of 2010, the proportion was less than half of one percent.
On February 10th, the MHS will host a presentation titled "The Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Williams."
Join the Montana Historical Society in celebrating African American History Month. In the 19th century, African Americans joined the migration west, hoping for a better life and more opportunity. Crystal Alegria, Co-Director of The Extreme History Project in Bozeman, will detail the story of Elizabeth Williams, an African American woman who made a life for herself in Helena and Bozeman during the 1860s and 1870s. Alegria will explore historic documents, including her Last Will and Testament, to better understand Mrs. William's life and catch a rare glimpse of early Montana through the lens of this African American woman.
The presentation starts at 10:30 a.m. The MHS is located at 225 North Roberts in Helena.