African Americans

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Early African Americans in Puget Sound

George Washington Bush, Washington State’s first black resident, headed west from Missouri with his wife and five sons in 1844. In 1845, they put down roots near Olympia, in an area known as Bush Prairie.

Manuel Lopes became Seattle’s first black resident in 1852. He opened a restaurant and barbershop in Pioneer Square. By 1880, the census counted 180 blacks in Washington State, 19 of them in Seattle. In 1890, John F. Cragwell had become the city’s most successful black entrepreneur, with a staff of 11 barbers in fashionable downtown salons. Horace Clayton, a prominent black newspaperman, had worked briefly as a political reporter at the P-I before founding the Seattle Republican, at one point the city’s second- largest newspaper. By the turn of the century, he and his wife, Susie, the paper’s associate editor, were the city’s most prominent African American couple and there were 406 black residents in Seattle’s population of 80,671. In 1950, Seattle’s Central District elected the first black representative to the state legislature. Washington now offered more professional opportunities for blacks than most other parts of the country. Although African Americans were a small fraction of the population, they played a very important role in shaping the city’s earliest history and character.


George Washington Bush

Victorian blacks.jpg

A Victorian pastime: a Sunday outing in the country