First African Methodist Episcopalian Church, Seattle, 2017 (Image: Josh Holland with permission to CHS)
On this day in 1911, Ed Foster and Clara Miller made headlines in Seattle because one was white and one was black, and they dared to marry on Capitol Hill.
FOSTER: Ed Foster and his siblings were the first literate generation in their family. His handwriting was still bad enough that transcriptions of the wedding records, including contemporary sources, mistakenly name him C. D. Foster. He was born in 1879 in Marion, Alabama, on the farm worked by his parents and grandparents. Marion is in the Black Belt of Alabama, known for its dark, rich soil and the Black slave labor that sowed cotton in it. About sixty miles east of Marion is Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy. After the Union defeated them, Ed’s grandfather was paid to work land for the first time in his life. The Fosters were a Black family. Ed Foster was the son of freed slaves. The Fosters were lucky to be in Perry County, the most progressive county in Alabama after the Civil War. That meant they had the chance to improve their futures. Ed and his older siblings Joe and May attended Lincoln Normal School, founded by freed slaves to lift up their children through education. But Perry County was still not a Utopia. As one scholar put it,
“Only a handful of people were hanged, maimed, shot, whipped, or killed on account of prejudice between 1865 and 1874 [in Perry County]”. Bertis English, “A Black Belt Anomaly”. Alabama Review, 2009.
Contrast those deaths to the chaos sowed by the nascent Ku Klux Klan across the rest of Alabama, and Perry County was a relative paradise. His family was trapped in slavery in the South for generations. Freed, and given a basic education, Ed and his siblings made their way to Puget Sound by 1910. Seattle was in national headlines in the lead up to and execution of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909, a possible explanation for their long move. They might have been drawn by a special edition of the Black newspaper Seattle Republican that circulated from 1907 to 1909. It profiled the success of Black citizens with images of houses, descriptions of businesses, and accounts of farms of 10s or 100s of acres. Continue reading →
Amid Seattle’s snowy start to February, a start to Black History Month was not lost. The Black Lives Matter at School movement, fostered by Garfield High School teacher and education activist Jesse Hagopian, grew into a national effort along with local events and rallies.
Last fall as the school year began, CHS spoke with Hagopian about Black Lives Matter at School and Teaching for Black Lives, a book for educators and students with lessons meant to challenge and upend systemic racism in the classroom. Here is what we learned.
A lesson in ‘Teaching for Black Lives’ from Garfield High By Carolyn Bick for CHS
In the one high school honors class Jesse Hagopian was in, his mostly white peers laughed at him when he stumbled over some words as he read aloud to the rest of the class.
“Being one of the only students of color in the classroom, that pretty much shut down my attention or will to participate in that class,” Hagopian recalled. “School was a challenge to me. I never thought I’d ever be a teacher. I wanted to get away from school.” Continue reading →
A ceremony to celebrate a financial boost to its vision of inclusive development also provided en opportunity for an early tour of the nearly completed Liberty Bank Building Monday in the Central District.
“I’m a product of the Bronx, New York. Raised in Baltimore. Used to having a lot of diversity in our lives. Coming to the Pacific Northwest, I was stunned and a little lonely for a while,” Regina Glenn said Monday inside the under construction building. “Coming to this project it reminds me of that pulling together that we had.” Continue reading →
Public comment and the East Design Review Board aligned Wednesday night in agreement that the latest designs for the proposed redevelopment of the Central District’s Midtown Center did not meet expectations for recognizing the history and the culture of African Americans and Black Seattle at 23rd and Union.
The “portals” that open to the street from Midtown: Public Plaza are still not open enough to foster a strong connection to the surrounding neighborhood and to support the hoped-for Black-owned businesses inside — the building needs to do more than utilize masonry to recognize African American-style architecture from the neighborhood — the design needs more “Afro-centric” colors and patterns and, as currently designed, looks too “South Lake Union” — features like the open plazas and a proposed video screen installation to showcase local arts and history need to have more fleshed out programming plans — a proposal to keep costs down on the three building development with connecting skywalks and fewer elevators and stairs needs more thought — and more.
They also agreed on something else.
The review board covering neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Montlake, and First Hill wasn’t necessarily the best body to make the decision.
“How is the Central Area design team not looking at this?,” one speaker asked during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s night’s review, the final stage for the project in the city’s public design process. She also stated the obvious — each member of the design board Wednesday night was white. Continue reading →
With Town Hall’s more-than-100-year-old First Hill home closed for a year-long renovation, the community forum is distributing its effort to bring illuminating speakers and timely issues to the city into Seattle’s neighborhoods.
Next Monday night, Town Hall Seattle and its “Neighborhood Resident” representative Erik Molano will come to E Pike for a free gathering of “poets and storytellers celebrating the history of Capitol Hill” and “a panel discussion on how we can help navigate the future of the neighborhood.”
Laura Da’ is a poet and teacher. A lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Da’ studied creative writing at the University of Washington and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Eastern Shawnee. Her first book, Tributaries, won a 2016 American Book Award. In 2015, Da’ was both a Made at Hugo House Fellow and a Jack Straw Fellow. Her next book, Instruments of the True Measure, is forthcoming in 2018. Continue reading →
Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney spent his life serving the community including some six decades of service at 19th and Madison. The pastor emeritus of Mount Zion Baptist Church died Saturday at the age of 91.
McKinney left the pulpit in 1998 after 40 years leading Mount Zion and remained a steady presence for the congregation and the city’s Black community. But at January’s annual celebration ofMartin Luther King, Jr. at Mount Zion, McKinney was unable to attend and appeared to the assembly via a recorded address on the church’s video screen. Continue reading →
In March, the Museum of History and Industry and the Northwest African American Museum are organizing a series of walks starting at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion and traveling “along the infamous ‘red line,’ hallmark of racial inequity and housing segregation in Seattle.” The first two Segregated Seattle: Walk the Infamous Red Line are already sold out but you can watch the event’s Facebook page for updates about more opportunities to attend.
Next week, the Central District’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute will host a Wednesday-night screening and panel discussion of A Central Vision, a 30-minute documentary film by Inye Wokoma and the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Development that “looks at the history of the Central Area, current plans and policies addressing the rapid growth and change in the neighborhood, and the future stake of long-time residents.”
Jackson was a key conduit in Seattle’s Womxn’s March (Image: CHS)
Joseph Jackson, first president of the Seattle Urban League
In 1986, Ron Sims, the first black person to be a member of the King County Council, introduced a motion to repair his county’s recognition of history by changing its namesake from an obscure, pre-Civil War United States vice president and slaveholder to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The motion passed, barely, 5-4. With history’s twists as knotted as ever this Presidents’ Day 2017, CHS wonders if another namesake change is in order.
King Street was named by David Maynard in his 1853 Plat of the Town of Seattle, one of the first three plats laying out the street grid. (The other two plats, north of Maynard’s, were filed by Carson Boren and Arthur Denny). Maynard, a staunch Democrat, named many of the streets in his plat for Democratic leaders, including Andrew Jackson, John B. Weller (Governor of California), and Joseph Lane (Oregon Territory’s Congressional delegate).
As was William Rufus Devane King, Jackson was also a slaveholder. Beyond his battlefield prowess, he is remembered for The Indian Removal Act. His populism and, apparently, temper have also become a historical model for the Trump administration. Continue reading →
In the same way Pike/Pine’s rainbow crosswalks let you know you’re walking someplace special, the Central District’s new Pan-African Red, Black, Green crosswalks tell a story about the area’s history and culture.
CHS toured a few of the intersections where the new “community crosswalks” have been installed Thursday to see what the new and improved design looks like on the street. Continue reading →
A symbol of the Central District’s black history — and present — was formalized Saturday morning as SDOT replicated in a $7,500 paint job what the community did with spray cans and inspiration this summer.
Saturday, Mayor Ed Murray was on hand along with residents and members of RBG The CD to unveil a new community crosswalk in the Pan-African red, green, and black colors crossing MLK at Powell Barnett Park.
Angel Mitchell, whom in his brief address before the ceremonial first crossing Murray was first to thank for her work to make the community crosswalk happen, said the colors of the crosswalk are part of remembering the neighborhood’s past as the community works toward the future.
“The crosswalks symbolize the history of the Central District,” she said. Continue reading →