Colorado isn’t known for its presence among the country’s elite schools of black history. After all, this is the state that gave us Woodrow Wilson and Custer. And so, before a room full of peers Friday, a group of 20 Black History Scholars gathered on a Colorado Springs stage to explain how their experiences — and research — will fill in a vivid picture of a diverse state born out of a diverse nation.
Every year, the Colorado Black History Month Fellowship Awards celebrate a different group of CU-Boulder students who plan to tell stories about black Americans’ contributions and living in the U.S.
This year, though, the people featured were less than half the age of the students up for that award. Young and seasoned research masters, they spoke as adjunct history professors at colleges in Colorado, California and elsewhere, about their roots, experiences, and plans for the future.
“This is not only a dream come true; it’s true,” said Aaron Evans, a Colorado Springs resident and Texas Wesleyan University graduate who graduated this summer with a doctorate in African American History. “In many ways, this is what the real student union looks like.”
Their tales linked together for a shared cause: compiling stories. As African-Americans, and people of color in general, they say they are eager to bring Colorado’s history into a new, multigenerational window. They want to bring it to life through meticulous documentation of names, places, and economic struggles, and to share it with young people of Color that might never know it.
Friday’s fellowship presentation was part of a daylong celebration, capped off by a dinner at the Statehouse, which included appearances by Colorado’s first female African-American governor, recipient of a Black History Presidential Medal, and a descendant of Gen. George Washington Carver.
Speaking after they had been roasted in traditional rap fashion by a local rap duo that’s known for it’s role on stage with the Black Lives Matter Movement, the students sat at tables, sketched out their dreams, and faced a room full of peers ready to lend a hand.
“It’s easy to look back,” said Barbara Bush, a history graduate and history teacher from Colorado Springs, who nominated the group. “But the history that I’m studying, in some ways, is even more interesting than it is in books. It’s not just people telling the stories. It’s really that people are telling these stories because they lived and worked and experienced a certain side of Colorado.”
Read more of “Colorado Black History: A generation will fill a mural” here.