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The Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Inc. was first proposed in 1977 and became incorporated in 1982.  Preserving, collecting and sharing the history of African Americans in Washington State are the priorities that shape the BHS mission.

BHS collections are a protected resource and public asset that archives the past and present to inform future generations. The Society recognizes the importance for documenting the culture and heritage of black people statewide, and upholds the notion that Washington State history is an essential link in the broader narrative that defines the story of our nation.

Preserving our past ~ Informing our future
~Become a Member Today~


We Are History Keepers ~ Free VIRTUAL Workshop

Preserving Historical and Cultural Record of Our Ethnic Communities

Sat., September 12, 2020
10 am to Noon

The workshop is hosted by 
and Special Co-Hosts,
 Black Heritage Society of Washington State.
Sessions will cover: 
~Researching local and family history ~ Conducting oral histories
~Digitizing and scanning materials ~ Preserving memorabilia                                    
See full program schedule details here
A Zoom link will be provided to each registrant before the workshop. 
“Virtual “Doors” open at 9:30 am.
Program begins at 10:00 and ends at 12:00 noon. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020
~A Message from the ROOTS COMMITTEE~

Dear ROOTS Family and Friends,

    On behalf of the ROOTS Committee, I am sending news  that  the annual Labor Day weekend celebration is cancelled this year.  It has been a tough year with COVID-19 risks nationwide and we are adhering to the restrictions that are meant to keep us safe.
    The ROOTS Committee is already planning a big welcome for 2021 as we march toward the 50th anniversary in 2022
    Our hearts are heavy with the brutality and harsh reminders of  how the nation still struggles with violent racism and the  powers who deliberately suppress voter rights. Hold family and friends close knowing that the roots we plant and nurture  today will grow to empower the generations who follow us.
Stay well and we’re looking forward to seeing you next  year.
In unity,
Paul Mitchell, Chair/ROOTS Committee
~Follow on fb @Roots Family Picnic

BHS Partner News – MOHAI Celebrates History Makers
Nominate a Community History Maker!
Deadline to nominate is  September 8, 2020

*More soon on the History Maker event

The 2020 History Makers event is going virtual!
Save the date and help us celebrate History Makers in our community. This year’s event pays tribute to everyday community heroes across the region who demonstrate all acts of kindness, heroism, and change—big and small.

Nominate an everyday hero at this link now
through Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

collaborating with
Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

BHS is partnered with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to provide content for a new online King County African American heritage sites tour.  The project is scheduled for completion in June, 2020.  We do, however, expect to add additional images to the tour as access opens to our archives.  Our project team includes independent curator, Jackie Peterson with technical support and images provided by Converge Media, and personal anecdotes shared via recorded audio from the library at Shelf Life Community Story Project.
Read About it.
Here is a link to This Place, WA Trust magazine/Spring, 2020 Issue

 #TBT History Moments
in partnership with
Africatown Media
Here is a link to the #TBT blog.


The Honorable Charles Z. Smith (1927-2016)

Early 2020, Life Member and dedicated friend to BHS, Eleanor Martinez Smith bestowed us the honor of caring for the Charles Z. Smith Legacy Collection.  The tremendous collection of memorabilia includes photographs, letters, documents and artifacts of Smith’s illustrious career and family life.  As soon as all is accessioned, we’ll make it available to the public.  As keepers of NW African American history, we extend our deep appreciation to the Smith Family for trusting BHS with this valuable asset. Did You Know?
Charles Zellender Smith was the first African American or person of color to become a judge in the State of Washington, being appointed as Judge of the Seattle Municipal Court. In 1966, again as a “first,” he was appointed to the King County Superior Court and subsequently reelected unopposed until he left the court in 1973. Also, in 1973, Smith was appointed Professor of Law and Associate Dean at the University of Washington Law School where he served until his retirement in 1986. Later in 1973 Smith was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps Reserve where he served in the Judge Advocate Division as a military judge until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1986.  Smith was instrumental in juvenile constitutional rights reform and his deep spirituality led him to serve as President of the American Baptist Churches, USA in 1976 and 1977.
1961:  Smith was recruited by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to join his staff. Smith’s assistance was sought by the Attorney General in investigating the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund. He led a team conducting grand juries around the country, culminating in indictment and successful prosecution of James R. Hoffa and five business men for mail and wire fraud.

Jonathan ‘Wordsayer’ Moore (1969-2017)

                                                          Jonathan Moore with oldest son, Upendo.

Known as Seattle’s “hip-hop ambassador” and “cultural mayor”, Moore was influential in the Northwest hip-hop scene and founded the group Source of Labor in 1989. Moore was born in Seattle, and is a legend on both the local and national level.  He leaves a passionate, devoted and visionary legacy on the music scene and in his personal life.

In 2019, it was our privilege to receive and complete the accession of the Jonathan Moore Legacy Collection into the BHS archives. We wish to thank Jon’s mother and extended family for their cooperation to complete the cataloging. It is a collection of numerous photos, ephemera and journals that let us understand his commitment to family and community, and gives insight to his musical genius.

  At BHS we are preserving the history that shapes and informs us.
Ask us about access to the Jonathan Moore Legacy Collection.

                                    DeCharlene Williams (1943-2018)

In 2018, the Seattle Black community lost one of its most tenacious, resilient and committed advocates with the passing of Ms. DeCharlene Williams.  She was a strong businesswoman who led with a smile and no-holds barred approach to establishing, building and encouraging Black business in Seattle’s Central Area.  Williams was co-founder and led the Central Area Chamber of Commerce from 1983 until shortly before her passing.  She was owner and stylist extraordinaire at DeCharlene’s Beauty Salon & Boutique  since 1968 at the corner of 21st Avenue and E Madison Street.  Williams vowed to keep Central Area history alive and was a champion for civil rights.

Williams’ daughter, Rita Green, made a wonderful gift of memorabilia and artifacts that sheds light on her mother’s career through a collection of photographs, ephemera and several of her fabulous hats.  The DeCharlene Williams Legacy Collection also contains vhs and media tapes of a radio show that Williams hosted in the 80’s,  News from the Chamber. The collection will be accessible before the end of 2020.

Edwin T. Pratt (1930-1969)

In 2017 it was our honor at BHS to acquire the Edwin T. Pratt Legacy Collection by generous donation of Mr. Pratt’s daughter and liaised by her godmother. The collection contains photographs, letters, handwritten speeches and other memorabilia that gives insight into the life and legacy of Mr. Pratt, a dedicated public servant, advocate for social justices and upon his death, Executive Director at the Seattle Urban League. 
A video resource that shares the story of Pratt’s leadership at the Seattle Urban League during the 1960s Seattle Civil Rights Movement is currently in production for release by late 2020. BHS will share the video on this website but in the meantime, please enjoy the short piece below produced by Pratt Fine Arts Center located in Seattle’s Central Area.  A link is also provided to an essay, Edwin T. Pratt: Excellence and Opportunity commissioned by Pratt Fine Arts Center and written by author, Nancy Rawles.