Racial History of Northern Colorado

After the events of this past month, I’ve had several people reach out to me asking about what our local history has been regarding racial issues. So I’ve put together a collection of links to articles I’ve written.

Racism in Fort Collins, an overview: This was one of the earliest articles I wrote on the topic and it covers a pretty broad swath of time. But it hopefully helps give a sense that we’ve struggled with racial issues of all sorts from very early on… and on up through to today.

The Klan in Northern Colorado in the 1920s:  This was the last article in a seven-part series on the Klan in Colorado during the 1920s. This last article focuses on the Klan in Northern Colorado in particular, but it includes links to all of the previous articles if you’d like to dig deeper.

It’s easier to marginalize people when you don’t know their history: When we don’t preserve the stories of those who have gone before, and when we ignore stories of people other than ourselves, we miss out on both the context of our own stories as well as the depth and breadth of history itself. And that ignorance and lack of context can lead to dramatic misconceptions.

Stories of Indigenous People

Friday, an Arapaho Leader: Separated from his tribe when he was young and raised by a French trapper who enrolled him in a Catholic school in St. Louis, Friday was fluent in both English and his native tongue. This enabled him to be particularly well suited to speak up for his people as immigrants from the United States and other countries entered his land. 

Stories of Black residents in Northern Colorado (mostly in Fort Collins)

Hattie McDanielShe only lived in FC for a short time at the turn of the century. But she stayed in touch with a few of her childhood friends even after becoming famous.

Charley ClayCharley appears to be one of the first Black men to escape the South and arrive in Northern Colorado as a free man. He also stuck around the longest. He had several kids, but they all drop out of the local census records by 1920. I’ve always wondered why. And I’ve started researching that just lately, but don’t have answers yet.

Harkless Hicks The local history books tend to only include Hattie and Charley. So researching Harkless’s story was my first attempt at getting a broader picture of the local Black population in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Black American West Museum & Heritage Center: This museum is located in Denver, but it covers stories all along the Front Range, including Wyoming. This is the best little house museum I’ve ever visited (no offense Avery House, Schwarz-Milner House, or Museo de las Tres Colonias). You will come away enlightened and inspired from all you will learn in this place.

Stories of Mexican immigrants and the Latinx community

Holy Family Church and attitudes towards Latinx Catholics: While we might think that the local Mexican community decided to break from St. Joe’s in order to worship in a setting they might find more comfortable — in their own language with people more like themselves, the reality was that the separation came more for reasons of White comfort.

The Cienfuegos Family: The story of the Cienfuegos family in Fort Collins in emblematic of both the positive and negative experiences that Mexican families have had in Fort Collins and surrounding areas.

Other Recommended Resources for Local History in this Area

Fort Collins Choice City for Whom? This documentary produced by Betty Aragon, interviews a variety of people in Fort Collins to explore the history, as well as the present day reality, of People of Color in Fort Collins. The movie is now available on YouTube.

People of the Poudre : an ethnohistory of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area, AD 1500-1880. This document by Lucy Burris can be read online through the website for the Archives & Collections at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

William O. Collins. This book by Brian Carroll explores the history of Fort Collins’ namesake, but in the telling of Collins’ story, Brian also includes excerpts of original documents related to the military presence in the area during the 1860s and the attitudes and behaviors related to the indigenous people at the time.

Local History Projects. The historic preservation staff have put together a page of all of the resources they’ve been able to find related to race in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. This is a treasure trove of information, stories, photos and more. 

(There’s other resources that I’ve come across that I need to include here. … coming soon… hopefully.)