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~
BHS and NAAM will join Trees of Seattle for a Special Arbor Week Tribute
Coming Soon during the week of October 26, 2020
Tune in virtually for a celebratory tree planting at Judge Charles M. Stokes Overlook in the Central District honoring the legacy of Judge Stokes. Sharing words along side Trees of Seattle and NAAM, are long-time BHS member Mrs. Josephine Stokes and BHS President, Stephanie Johnson-Toliver. Check at Trees of Seattle website during the week of October 26-30. THERE’S MORE: ~Tell Your Tree Story…here’s the link to start telling your story NOW. ~Virtual Session with Seattle Civic Poet, Jourdan Imani Keith ~Q&A: Ask An Arborist _____________________________________________________________________________
BHS with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
IN COLLECTIONS HONORABLE JUDGE 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 Judge Charles Z. Smith Legacy Collection. This tremendous collection of memorabilia includes photographs, letters, documents and artifacts of Smith’s illustrious career and dedicated family life. As soon as all is accessioned, BHS will 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 and person of color to become a judge in the State of Washington. 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. 1961: Smith was recruited by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to join his staff. He led a team conducting grand juries around the country, culminating in indictment and successful prosecution of James R. Hoffa.
IN COLLECTIONS JONATHAN ‘WORD SAYER’ MOORE (1969-2017)
Jonathan Moore with oldest son, Upendo.
Known as Seattle’s “hip-hop ambassador” and “cultural mayor”, Jonathan Moore was influential in the Northwest hip-hop scene and founded the group Source of Laborin 1989. Moore was born in Seattle, and is a legendary artist on local and national levels. 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 at BHS archives. We wish to thank Jon’s mother who is the donor 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.
IN COLLECTIONS 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 in Seattle. Williams vowed to keep Central Area history alive and was a champion for civil rights. Under Williams’ leadership, The Chamber was founder and is sponsor for the community’s annual Juneteenth Celebration.
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 one of her fashionable iconic hats. 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.
IN COLLECTIONS 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 her close family friend. The collection contains photographs, letters, handwritten speeches, and other memorabilia that gives insight into the life and legacy of Mr. Pratt. He was a dedicated public servant, advocate for social justice and upon his death, Executive Director at the Seattle Urban League. The collection is accessible via appointment at BHS archives. 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 Opportunitycommissioned by Pratt Fine Arts Center and written by author, Nancy Rawles.