African Americans in the West

Lisa Roy, an individual member of CIN, is family historian and ardent genealogist who lives in Denver, Colorado.

This is Mary Margaret Wheaton-Bruner, Lisa's great great great grandmother.

This is Mary Margaret Wheaton-Bruner, Lisa’s great great great grandmother.

I had the pleasure of attending the Tesoro Cultural Center lecture at The Fort this past Sunday, April 7, 2013.  Dr. Quintard Taylor, the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington and author of In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990, was the lecturer.  There were many things I knew about the West thanks to the cultural and historical offerings in Colorado but I was not as familiar with the other Western states, especially New Mexico, California, Washington and Oregon.

Did you know that an African American student by the name of George Long organized a multi-racial sit-in  that led to the integration of Albuquerque’s restaurants almost a decade before sit-ins started in the South?   In 1952, Long went on to draft legislation at the local and state level in New Mexico that became the basis for future civil rights legislation at the national level.

Did you know that Mary Ellen Pleasant was the first African American woman to sue the trolley cars in San Francisco and her multiple law suits led to integration on the trolley cars?  This occurred between the 1860s and 1870s.  She was also part of the Underground Railroad in California.

Military record of Horace Wheaton, who served as a First Sergeant during the Civil War.

Military record of Horace Wheaton, who served as a First Sergeant during the Civil War.

I shared a few details about my family with Dr. Taylor and have been invited to write about my family history in Maryland and elsewhere.  I have been fortunate to collect land records and lots of news articles, obituaries and pictures after many years of research.  It is great to know there is a place to share our history and stories.

Many more facts on African Americans in the West and in American History can be found at

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