African Americans come to the Pacific Northwest


Club de Facto, 1927. Records of the Bicentennial Oral History Project, Washington State Archives.


African Americans have had a presence in the history of the Pacific Northwest since the Lewis and Clark Expedition and began settling in Washington State in the 1850s. The first major turning point in African American migration to the Northwest involved George W. Bush. Bush was one of the leaders of the first organized party of settlers migrating to Puget Sound.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • Why did Bush and Michael Simmons lead a party of settlers North to start a settlement that eventually developed into the cities of Olympia and Tumwater instead of settling in Oregon?
  • What kinds of communications skills enabled George W. Bush to became both a leader in his party of settlers and one of the leading citizens of Washington Territory?
  • Since then African Americans have settled throughout Washington in successive migrations of railroad workers, miners, World War II factory workers and musicians. What brought these different generations of settlers to Washington?
  • What conditions did they encounter?
  • What kinds of organizations did they form to stay in touch and pursue their interests?
  • How did they circulate news within their community?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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