HELENA – On the first day of this Black History Month, one historian is looking back at the impact that African Americans had on the Treasure State during its early years.

Ellen Baumler, Interpretive Historian at the Montana Historic Society, presented a profile of African Americans in the state at Helena College on Thursday.

“Some of the stories coming to light are really wonderful stories and the contributions of this particular minority is really astounding,” Baumler said.

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According to Baumler, historians like herself are working to gather more data about African Americans in Montana but have run into road blocks. Baumler said the problem is that much of it is oral history, and some of the history may not have ever been passed down from one generation to another.

Nonetheless, Baumler spoke of many African American individuals coming to Montana for a variety of reasons – some leaving slavery and others were involved in the military.

“These folks really made a wonderful impact on the early territory and the state,” Baumler said.

Baumler said Montana had its largest proportion of African Americans back in 1890, and even then it was just one percent. As of 2010, the proportion was less than half of one percent.


  1. Was this presentation filmed? I really, really wanted to attend but caught the flu and was too sick to go. What a disappointment!