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Grant number like: GE-269751-20

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University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE 68503-2427)
Mikal Brotnov Eckstrom (Project Director: August 2019 to May 2022)

Exhibitions: Planning
Public Programs

$75,000 (approved)
$67,679 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2020 – 8/31/2021

Staking their Claim: Black Homesteaders and the Promise of Land in the Great Plains

Planning a traveling exhibition about late-nineteenth-century black homesteaders on the Great Plains.

Between 1877 and the 1930s, thousands of African Americans migrated to the Great Plains to claim homesteads. Disheartened by the federal government’s failure to protect them from vicious anti-Black violence in the South, African Americans saw the Great Plains as their new “Promised Land.” A traveling exhibition, “Staking their Claim,” seeks to introduce the largely neglected story of Black homesteaders to the American public. Black homesteaders proved up homestead claims in all Great Plains states. Many came in groups or “colonies, creating all-Black or mostly-Black rural communities.” The most important were Nicodemus, Kansas; DeWitty, Nebraska; Sully County, South Dakota; Empire, Wyoming; Dearfield, Colorado; and Blackdom, New Mexico. These communities survived until the 1930s; only Nicodemus, now designated as a National Historic Site, continues to have residents today. Their story illustrates Black migration, toil and triumph.