You may be surprised to learn that BlackPast.org, the most comprehensive African American and African history website in the nation — and perhaps the world — is based in Seattle.
The Northwest, after all, isn’t traditionally regarded as a focal point for the African American experience. But that’s precisely one of the notions that University of Washington professor emeritus Quintard Taylor would like to address.
“Black history is not something that stands off in the corner somewhere. Black history is all around us,” said Taylor, founder of the site. “There is no place in the U.S. where you are not going to be in touch with black history.”
BlackPast, which is nearing its 10-year anniversary, features more than 4,000 encyclopedic entries provided by more than 700 volunteer contributors from around the globe. The nonprofit site covers notable historical African American figures, locations and events, houses important speeches and lists significant landmarks by state, among other features.
It calls attention to African American “firsts,” including the first black lawmaker (Matthias de Souza, elected to the colonial Maryland legislature in 1641), the first female African American dentist (Ida Gray Nelson Rollins in 1890) and the first black U.S. chess grandmaster (Jamaica-born Maurice Ashley in 1999).
PROFESSOR & AUTHORQUINTARD TAYLOR, the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington, is the author of The Forging of A Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994) and In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the America West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998). He and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore are the editors of the anthology, African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003) and he is co-editor with Lawrence B. de Graaf, and Kevin Mulroy of Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001). Most recently he edited a two volume collection of primary documents titled From Timbuktu to Katrina: Readings in African American History (Boston: Thomson Wadsworth Press, 2008). His book, America-I-Am Black Facts: The Story of a People Through Timelines, 1601-2000, was released in February, 2009 by Tavis Smiley Books. In July 2010, the University of Washington Press will release Dr. Sam: The Autobiography of Sam Kelly which Taylor co-authored with the late university administrator and career army officer.
Taylor is also the author of over fifty articles. His work on African American Western History, African American, African, Afro-Brazilian, and comparative ethnic history has appeared in the Western Historical Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review, Oregon Historical Quarterly, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Journal of Negro History, Arizona and the West, Western Journal of Black Studies, Polish-American Studies, and the Journal of Ethnic Studies, among other journals. He is also editor of the Race and Culture Series for the University of Oklahoma Press.