NOTE: It is impossible to recall in this brief booklet all of the countless Blacks in Albuquerque and New Mexico who have made and/or continue to make contributions to the growth and progress of the city, state, and country.
“We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand
why and how we came to be and who we are today.”
--African proverb from the brochure of the
African-American Museum & Cultural Center of New Mexico
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
--From the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
In a ceremony in Santa Fe in March 2006 organized by the New Mexico State Office of
African American Affairs, Governor Bill Richardson proclaimed New Mexico to be a
“Multicultural State.” Approximately one hundred New Mexican civil rights activists, community members, and dignitaries attended the ceremony. The Proclamation indicated that New Mexico is composed of “the stories of generations of our citizens of Native American, Black, Hispanic, Anglo, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds.”
In spite of this proclamation, a recurring theme among scholars and community activists alike when writing about Blacks in New Mexico is that the history of Blacks in the state
has never been given the prominence that it deserves. Fannye Irving Gibbs, President and Founder of the Historical Research Patrons (HRP) writes: “Even until today, most
Anglicized historical novelists, researchers, and storytellers find it necessary to overlook
the contributions Blacks make to this country, in fact to the world. Nowhere is this more noticeable than here in the Southwest. The need to identify New Mexico as a tri-cultural
state, excluding Blacks entirely or including them as an afterthought, seems to be almost a religion in this area. This attitude not only created ire in many of us, it whetted our appetites to develop means to inform the misinformed or uninformed.”
Dr. Charles Becknell Sr., writing in his autobiography, “No Challenge No Change,
Growing Up Black in New Mexico, echoes Irving-Gibbs’ sentiments when he describes a
University of New Mexico workshop for teachers in 1968 in which he raised the question
of why New Mexico was considered a tri-cultural state composed of Anglos, Hispanics,
and Native Americans. When he asked why African Americans and other races and ethnic groups were not included in the equation, the answer was that African Americans are part of the Anglo culture. He recalls being “angry, hurt and confused” and went on a life’s mission to ensure that all people would be seen as “part of the cultural mosaic of New Mexico.”
University of New Mexico African American Studies Professor Emeritus, Dr. Cortez
Willias, emphasizes this theme as well when he states that it is a shame that many New
Mexicans think the state is tri-cultural and ignore the historical and continued presence of African Americans. “We want to get the information out to the schools about the
contribution of Blacks,” he states. “Most of our history has been muted.”
Because much Black history has not been documented and is just beginning to surface in scholarly writings, the majority of this booklet will be focused on writings and interviews with African Americans who have lived in Albuquerque and New Mexico. It is their voice and their “Reflections on Black Heritage” that we hope to capture.
As researcher Fannye Irving-Gibbs wrote in her June 2005 column in The Perspective
“We frequently hear that African American children need African American role models. As I read our history, I contend there is no dearth of African American role models. We need unbiased historians who will rewrite history as it really was and who will give
each group its due.
“Also, we need to teach our children to read and to be proud of themselves and their forbearers, who frequently despite limited means excelled in their many undertakings. We need to learn to honor, not just a select few, but the many who gave their lives to make this a better world for us all.”