'Black Tucson' online exhibit offers 100-year glimpse into Black life in Tucson, Arizona

'Black Tucson' online exhibit offers 100-year glimpse into Black life in Tucson, Arizona

June 20, 2024
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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People fashions at del Rio

NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) fashions at del Rio, Photographer: J.S., 13 4x5, 1959 April 26

Black Tucson

Little is often discussed about early Black Tucson settlers beyond tales of Buffalo Soldiers traversing through the desert. The first recorded Black person to step foot into Southwest Arizona was Esteven (also recorded as Esteban, Estevanico, and Little Steven), an enslaved Black man from Morocco who acted as a guide for a group of Spanish explorers. Ongoing conflicts in the area led to his death, and it would be nearly 300 years until Black folks were recorded to be in the area again.

Special Collections Graduate Assistant Zoe Harrison created a digital exhibit, Black Tucson, which offers a glimpse of Black life in Tucson, Arizona, over a 100-year period, ranging from the 1850s to the 1960s.

This exhibit highlights various aspects of the lives of Black people as they have survived and thrived in the Southwest. It also builds upon our Black History in the Borderlands LibGuide created by Harrison, in collaboration with Special Collections staff and the University of Arizona Beyond Juneteenth initiative.