The Idaho Black History Museum is located in Boise’s Julia Davis Park in the historic St. Paul Baptist Church. The museum provides exhibits as well as educational and outreach programming to support its mission of building bridges of understanding between cultures. General exhibits tell the story of Frederick Douglas, the Underground Railroad, and Jim Crow, among other topics related to the history of African Americans.
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Exhibits on the more recent influence of African Americans in Idaho include a game football belonging to NFL player and Boise native Cedric Minter. In addition to his career in the NFL and Canadian Football League, Minter had a successful career playing for Boise State University in the late 1970s. An exhibit about Cherie Buckner-Webb, who in 2010 was the first African American to be elected to the Idaho State Legislature, educates guests on her life and career. The museum is home to Slave to President, a nine-panel painting by artist Pablo Rodriguez, Jr. that chronicles the history of black Americans from their years as slaves, through the Civil Rights Movement, to the election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president. A large 6-foot portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. was also completed by Rodriguez. The two paintings are considered by many to be the highlight of a visit to the museum. Rodriguez is a Marine Corps veteran who grew up in Idaho and received his BFA from Boise State University. The work was donated to the museum by the artist in 2009. In addition to donating work to the Black History Museum, Rodriguez has donated work to the Idaho Human Rights Education Center and the Idaho Military History Museum. Rodriguez’ wish is that those who view the work experience the same cathartic cleansing that he experienced in their creation. His art has allowed him to heal from his war-time experiences, and has put his own trauma in perspective as he grapples with the trauma of persecuted cultures throughout America. Exhibits at the museum educate visitors about the history of black Americans in Idaho and their contributions to the growth of the state. Outside the museum is a bronze sculpture of a larger-than-life-sized Abraham Lincoln sitting on a bench. The statue, made from an original work by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, was dedicated in 2010. Borglum is most well known for his creation of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
History: Reverend William B. Hardy was the founder of St. Paul Baptist Church, one of two African American churches founded in Boise in 1908. The former church building, which currently hosts the Idaho Black History Museum, was built in 1921. A carpenter as well as a preacher, Rev. Hardy built the church himself, alongside early parishioners, making it one of the first buildings in Idaho built by African Americans. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In 1993, the congregation moved to a new location and donated the building to the Black History Museum.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Volunteers are always on hand to answer questions. An annual Juneteenth: National Freedom Day celebration is one of the museum’s most popular events. The day is celebrated with gospel choirs and other musical performances. The museum frequently hosts community discussions on a broad range of local and national topics from history to current police relations. Other programs include movie nights, author talks and book signings, literacy programs, and educational workshops.
Past and Future Exhibits: Recent events at the museum have included a viewing of the 2017 Academy Award nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro, followed by a community discussion. The event coincided with a James Baldwin exhibit at the museum, which featured two of his most famous works, A Letter to My Nephew and On Being White and Other Lies. Future events at the museum include a community discussion on racial unrest and current conflict in the Boise community. Boise State University Professor Dr. Gabbard and Angela Taylor from NAACP Boise will serve as panelists alongside students from Boise State University.
What’s Nearby: The Black History Museum is located on the north side of Julia Davis Park, Boise’s oldest city park, founded in 1907 by Thomas Davis as a memorial to his wife. The park spans almost 90 acres and is also home to the Boise Art Museum, the Boise Zoo, the Idaho State Historical Museum, and the Discovery Center of Idaho.
508 Julia Davis Drive, Boise, ID 83702, Phone: 208-789-2164