"Captain John Smith. About 80 years old, Familiar Character in Helena, Montana, 1891." Photo courtesy of Montana State website

HELENA – February is Black History Month.  A website through the Montana Historical Society continues adding more and more information about the history of African Americans in the state, dating back to the mid-1800’s.

The website, “Montana’s African American Heritage Resources”, is a project more than ten years in the making that started when a group of people from Great Falls expressed interest in learning more about the Historical Society’s resources on Montana’s black history.

A cultural grant allowed historians to work towards gathering photos, oral histories, manuscripts and other information from across the state.

A second cultural grant several years later was used towards extending that chronicle through census records.

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Most recently, a third grant, through the National Park Service, focused on identifying places and buildings of cultural significance to Montana’s African American population.

Community Preservation Coordinator Kate Hampton says it turns out many of those places ended up being located in Helena.

“Not necessarily because it’s the Capital or that’s where we were, but because African American community here in Helena has been so strong, since the 1860’s. We knew that we had a good stock of buildings and places that we could document associated with that community,” says Hampton.

Click here to access the home page for Montana’s African American Heritage Resources.