Games, by Jacob Lawrence. On view at the Washington State Convention Center.
Detail from Silhouettes of My People by Patrice Batiste-Brown. Courtesy of the Northwest African American Museum.
Jimi Hendrix Memorial. Photo: David Newman

African American
Cultural Heritage

African American heritage in Washington goes back to the territorial era, with the arrival of Black pioneers who settled in both rural and urban areas. In 1845, George W. and Isabella James Bush and their five sons left Missouri and settled in south Puget Sound in an area now known as Bush Prairie.

From the late nineteenth century, two distinct African American neighborhoods developed in Seattle, in the East Madison area and the Yesler–Jackson area, and these eventually grew together to form the Central District or Central Area.  The recently designated Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District celebrates and preserves the heritage of this community through the work of Black businesses, arts, and cultural groups.

World War II brought a tremendous increase in the region’s African American population from those recruited to work in defense industries.

Seattle’s jazz music scene flourished, and the Civil Rights era brought hard-won achievements for the Black community.  In recent years, immigrants from many African nations have established vibrant businesses and community organizations in neighborhoods such as First Hill and Southeast Seattle.

The Northwest African American Museum explores the history, culture and art of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Arts institutions celebrate the work of educator Thelma Dewitty, poet Langston Hughes, painter Jacob Lawrence, sculptor James Washington, and playwright August Wilson. The legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and musician Jimi Hendrix, along with many community leaders, are honored in parks throughout the city.

Cultural events such as Festival Sundiata (June), Umoja Fest (August), and Earshot Jazz Festival (Oct-Nov) celebrate African American history, music, film, dance, and theatre.

We invite you to download the entire African American Heritage Guide to Seattle for more information about history, special events, heritage sites, museums and arts.

Get the Guide to Seattle’s African American Cultural Heritage
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