New Mexico History Museum

Symposium Explores the African American Experience in Northern New Mexico

June 01, 2011


Learn more about the African American experience in northern New Mexico, and share your own family’s story, during a symposium in conjunction with the exhibit New Mexico’s African American Legacy: Visible, Vital, Valuable. “The Journey of the African American to Northern New Mexico” takes place 2-4 pm on Sunday, June 12, in the History Museum Auditorium. The event is free with admission; Sundays are free to New Mexico residents.

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Rita Powdrell, president of the African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico and one of the symposium’s organizers, sees it as an interactive opportunity for panelists and audience members to share information. The museum, which is still seeking a physical home, helped pull together the African American Legacy exhibition, which focuses on Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and the post-Civil War community of Blackdom. The AAMCC is actively collecting information about other parts of the state to one day expand the exhibition’s reach. People with oral histories, as well as photographs, diaries and other ephemera are encouraged to attend.

The symposium will divide the topic into eras, from 1880 to the present, with discussions on original families, churches and social organizations, patterns of integration and segregation, and entrepreneurship.

“We will cover some issues that are unique to Santa Fe,” Powdrell said. “Why African Americans came to Santa Fe and northern New Mexico. What social constructs they found when they arrived. What types of social constructs they put in place to enhance their survival and collective identity. How did they interact with other ethnic groups in the area? What types of dynamics in schools and the job market might have mitigated against a stronger African American presence there.”

Mable Orndorff-Plunkett will moderate the discussion. Panelists include Ernestine (Tina) Lawrence, great-granddaughter of William Slaughter, who came to Santa Fe in 1884; poet and health activist Doris Fields; Gary Williams, deputy director of the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs; and Jermaine LeDouix, a 2011 graduate of Santa Fe High School.

New Mexico’s African American Legacy: Visible, Vital, Valuable is on display in the museum’s second-floor Gathering Space through Oct. 9. A second symposium, “Entrepreneurship in the African American Community” will be held from 2-4 pm on Sunday, Sept. 25.

Phone number for publication: 505-476-5200

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