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Monday, February 12, 2018

Montana Resources to Supplement Your Black History Month Studies

I think every month is Black History Month. That said, I'm delighted to see more attention paid to African American history in February. 

Looking to bring Black history home? My colleague Kate Hampton just published this really interesting blog essay on laws that particularly affected African American Montanans--from their right to vote, serve on juries, attend desegregated schools, marry whom they pleased, and even go bowling or to dinner. I found "Racial Legislation in Montana that Particularly Affected African Americans" eye-opening. I bet you and your upper-level students will too.

Kate also headed up our Montana's African American Heritage Resources Project. The extremely rich website includes place-based research and presentations (including some awesome story maps),  oral histories, photographs, and artifacts, and, of course, lesson plans.

P.S. Are you playing Montana Madness? I hope so. We cooked up this March-Madness style game to promote our new online exhibit, “Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object.” Among the objects competing to make the Sweet Sixteen is a steel recording by Taylor Gordon singing "By and By." (Scroll down to see it.) An African-American native of White Sulphur Springs, Taylor Gordon (1893–1971) first achieved fame as a singer of spirituals in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. As a young man, Gordon began working for circus impresario John Ringling on his private railroad car that traveled regularly from Montana to New York. It was in the corridors of the train that Taylor’s soaring tenor voice drew the attention of guests who encouraged him to pursue a career in music. During a layover in New York, he joined a traveling vaudeville group that crisscrossed the nation. This steel record, produced in 1929 as an audio letter to his family, is one of the few recordings made of Gordon and includes him singing "By and By." Today, Gordon is best known for his autobiography, Born to Be, which chronicles his rise from servant to high society, from mining camp to New York City. You can vote for Gordon's record or another object in our "Montanans at Play" conference here.

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