Black History

Bernson, Sara L. and Robert J. Eggers. “Black People in South Dakota History.” South Dakota History 7(3) (1977), 241-270.

Friefeld, Jacob K. Mikal Brotnov Eckstrom, and Richard Edwards. “African American Homesteader “Colonies” in the Settling of the Great Plains.” Great Plains Quarterly 39(1) (Winter 2019), 11-37.  Includes study of Sully County.

Guenther, Todd. “Lucretia Marchbanks: A Black Woman in the Black Hills.” South Dakota History 31(1) (2001), 1-25.

Karolevitz, Bob. “The Great Depression Drove Blacks from South Dakota.” Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), December 24, 1989.

Suggs, Henry Lewis. “The Black Press, Black Migration, and the Transplantation of Culture on the Great Plains of South Dakota, 1865-1985.” In Henry Lewis Suggs, The Black Press in the Middle West, 1865-1985. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

United States Commission on Civil Rights. Negro airmen in a northern community; discrimination in Rapid City, South Dakota.  March 1963.

VanEpps-Taylor, Betti Carol. Forgotten Lives: African Americans in South Dakota. Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2008.

Other snippets:

  • The DeVoes and Cranmers ran an Industrial School for Working Girls and Women in Huron, under the W.C.T.U. with courses including writing, reading, vocal music, and penmanship. The school also had an annex for “colored” women (6 students) “under the same management” [Ross-Nazzal, “Emma Smith DeVoe,” 239; Koupal, Our Landlady, 205; “Emma Amelia Cranmer,” Wikipedia; The Union Signal, 12/19/1889, Page 66, Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

Historical Sanborn Insurance maps sometimes specified structures with black residents. The terminology used is now considered inappropriate, but they are a witness to black presence in the cities of Dakota Territory and South Dakota:

  • Female Boarding / NEGRO” (“female boarding” at that place and time was potentially/likely a brothel), on Sanborn Insurance Map for Sturgis (1885).
  • Negro Dw’g” adjacent to blacksmith business, on map for Sioux Falls (1886).
  • Negro Tenements” on Sanborn Insurance Map for Huron (1887).
  • M.E. Church, Negro” on map for Sioux Falls (1908).

Other items on racism and discrimination:

  • Twenty-five young women in Mitchell did “burnt cork” blackface performance at the opera house with music, a “patriotic selection,” readings, dance, and “Josephine Willkomm gave a characteristic stump speech which touched largely upon the woman suffrage question, and the young lady made some humorous bits in her presentation of the rights of women.” [Mitchell Capital (SD), February 17, 1905].
  • The Elks organization in Watertown held “a Big Minstrel Show” at the Metropolitan theater, with directors from New York to stage the show and local “professional and business men of Watertown… [who] will put on burnt-cork and sing, dance and joke for the entertainment of their friends.” [Saturday News (Watertown SD), May 22, 1913].
  • W.F. Reden of Sioux Falls was a “former negro policeman” and secretary-treasurer of the Booker T. Washington Center, was involved with a local political controversy, giving testimony about corruption charges against a city commissioner. During cross-examination, opposing counsel claimed Reden had been dismissed from his position as policeman because of “writing an obscene letter to a woman,” which Reden strongly denied, saying he’d been fired for “democratic political activity in the November 1936 campaign” [Argus Leader (Sioux Falls SD), October 20, 1937]. {Reden was the brother of Louisa Mitchell, the subject of one of my posts on this site.}