Rock the House!
The Blackdom Community, African-Americans in New Mexico,
Plus a Performance by the Afro-Gospel Praise Experience
Santa Fe - Join us for lectures on the pioneers of the Blackdom community and the African-American experience in New Mexico at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31, in the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium. As a special treat, the Afro-Gospel Praise Experience will perform a mixture of Afro-Latin rhythms and traditional gospel music throughout the program.
Seating is limited. Tickets to the event, part of the Telling New Mexico Inaugural Lecture Series, cost $10 and can be obtained at the shops in the History Museum and Palace of the Governors. You can also purchase tickets online at http://www.museumfoundation.org/tellingnm
- Landjur Abukusumo, pastor of Roswell's Washington Chapel Christian Worship Center and founder and chairman of the Blackdom Memorial Foundation, which oversees development of the proposed four-acre memorial, museum, restaurant and import shop.
- Thomas Lark, curator for the African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall at Expo New Mexico.
- Gregory Allen Waits, project designer of the Blackdom Memorial Gardens with Lloyd and Associates Architects from Santa Fe.
Lark will focus on the African-American roots of New Mexico, which date back to early Spanish exploration. The earliest among them include Esteban, an African slave who was killed during Fray Marcos de Niza's ill-fated expedition for the Seven Cities of Cibola in 1539. After Mexican independence from Spain in 1828 and the abolishment of slavery in the Southwest, black fur trappers arrived. In the 1870s, the town of Dora was settled in the Cimarron Valley by freed slaves. Black cowboys and the fabled Buffalo Soldiers were some of the late 19th-century African-Americans who called New Mexico home.
Abukusumo will tell of the founding of Blackdom, a dream that began with Henry Boyer. In 1846, Boyer came to New Mexico as a U.S. Army wagoneer in one of Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny's units. He was awed by its wide-open spaces and dreamed of a self-sustaining community - a dream shared by other African-Americans who likewise pursued the establishment of towns throughout the nation during Reconstruction. Henry Boyer's son, Frank Boyer, educated at Morehouse and Fiske Colleges, decided to take advantage of the 1893 Homestead Act to pursue his own version of that dream. He and a student, Daniel Keyes, walked from Pellam, Ga., to New Mexico, settling near modern-day Dexter, in October 1900.
After working on ranches, the two were able to send for their wives and children and began marketing the town to African-American families in Oklahoma and Texas. Families from Mississippi and Ohio soon followed, and at one point, the town claimed 20 families of settlers. Besides the hardships of homesteading, residents faced racial discrimination, and Blackdom declined. The town was abandoned, leaving little physical evidence, but Boyer recreated the experiment south of Las Cruces in a town named Vado, which survives today.
Waits will talk about Blackdom Memorial Gardens, which commemorates the town's role in shaping the African-American experience in the United States. The Memorial relocates the townsite plat into downtown Roswell as a gathering space with seating areas, water features, landscaping and open-air auditorium.
The Telling New Mexico Inaugural Lecture Series accompanies the book Telling New Mexico: A New History (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009), and the History Museum's core exhibition. Topics in the series cover a range that includes Spanish colonists, Japanese internment camps and Navajo women. Upcoming lectures:
March 28: Gail Y. Okawa, professor of English at Youngstown State University in Ohio, on "Exile from Paradise, Internment in New Mexico: My Grandfather's Journey," an exploration of Santa Fe's World War II Japanese-American internment camp.
May 2: UNM Regents' Professor of History Ferenc Szasz on "New Mexico in the Era of World War II."
Aug. 22: Jennifer Nez Denetdale, associate professor of history at Northern Arizona University, on "Din'e/Navajo Women: At the Intersection of Nation, Gender, and Tradition," part of her current book project recounting the stories of Navajo women.
The New Mexico History Museum is the newest addition to a campus that includes the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; the Press at the Palace of the Governors; and the Native American Artisans Program. The New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, 113 Lincoln Ave., is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, visit www.nmhistorymuseum.org.
Contact: Kate Nelson
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors
(505) 554-5722 (cell)