The National Park Service has awarded a second grant to the Center for Great Plains Studies to advance the project “Black Homesteaders in the Great Plains.”
In 2017, Richard Edwards, director and chair of the center, and post-doctoral researchers Jacob Friefeld and Mikal Eckstrom began work under the first grant to create the first database of all identified black homesteaders in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas. Since race is typically not listed in homestead filings, this research requires comparing homestead records with decennial census records.
The team is also focusing on six black homesteader communities or “colonies”: Nicodemus, Kansas; DeWitty, Nebraska; Dearfield, Colorado; Sully County, South Dakota; Empire, Wyoming; and Blackdom, New Mexico. For each community, the researchers expect to develop both a roster of claimants and an interactive online map.
The second grant will allow the team to provide content based on their research for entry on the National Park Service’s national websites, allowing interested individuals, such as descendants of black homesteaders, to access the material.
“Funding for Phase II of the project allows us to move our scholarly results into the sphere of public discussion and usefulness,” Friefeld said.
The center is working in collaboration with Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice and Nicodemus National Historic Site in Nicodemus, Kansas.