By Brittany Solomon, Business Partner – Human Resources
February marks the celebration of Black History Month, a time to honor the achievements, contributions and rich cultural heritage of the Black community. Mile High United Way proudly honors the enduring legacy of Black leaders in Denver during Black History Month.
This recognition is especially profound in Denver’s historic Five Points district, one of the city’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, where Mile High United Way is located.
The history of Five Points evolved in the face of segregationist, racist policies and redlining. Despite these formidable barriers, Denver’s Black population not only persevered but thrived, overcoming to build a cultural haven that endures to this day. Five Points was once renowned as “The Harlem of the West,” due to its large jazz scene and the presence of icons such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, all whom frequented the vibrant community.
Join us as we delve into the vibrant tapestry of Black culture and explore events and activities that pay homage to the legacy of Black leaders in Denver.
Trailblazers in Denver’s Black History
John T. Gunnell: John was a prominent Denver attorney and the first African American to serve in the Colorado State Legislature. He also was a key figure in the establishment of the state’s first Black-owned law firm.
Madam C.J. Walker: An entrepreneur and philanthropist, she is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. She made significant contributions to the beauty and cosmetics industry, empowering African American women and leaving a lasting impact on Denver’s Black community.
Benny Hooper: Known as the “Mayor of Five Points,” he was a beloved community leader who championed social causes and economic growth, leaving an enduring legacy in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood.
Wellington Web: Denver’s first African American mayor who brought about transformative change during his three-term tenure, focusing on inclusivity and urban development.
Attend Black History Month Events and Activities
Visit Denver offers a comprehensive list of events and activities happening across Metro Denver during Black History Month. Here are a few additional opportunities:
Five Points Self-Guided Walking Tour: This tour follows the path of those who empowered Denver’s African American/Black community. Discover inspiring stories and historical markers that illuminate the shaping of African American/Black culture in Denver.
Black American West Museum and Heritage Center: The Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver is a cultural institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the often-overlooked history of African Americans in the West. Through exhibits and programs, it highlights the significant contributions and experiences of Black pioneers and settlers in the region, showcasing the intersection of Black culture and the western frontier.
Museum for Black Girls: The Museum for Black Girls in Denver celebrates the achievements and narratives of Black women and girls. By focusing on representation and inclusivity, the museum provides a platform for artistic expression, storytelling, and community engagement, fostering a sense of pride and connection among its visitors.
Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at the Denver Art Museum: “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks” at the Denver Art Museum is an exhibition that features the works of contemporary Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. Through vibrant and expressive paintings, Boafo explores the richness and complexity of Black identity, creating a platform for dialogue and reflection on the diversity and depth of the Black experience. The exhibit is on display through Feb. 19.
Book Club List
Explore these fiction and non-fiction books that honor and celebrate Black voices in recognition of Black History Month.
|Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
|Constructing a Nervous System – Margo Jefferson
|The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
|All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson
|The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
|The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story – Nikole Hannah-Jones
|The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
|The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family – Kerri K. Greenidge
|The Color Purple – Alice Walker
|A Visible Man – Edward Enninful
Podcasts about the Black experience
Expand your knowledge and listen, reflect and engage with important issues.
Code Switch: NPR dives into themes of race, ethnicity and culture. This podcast covers a wide variety of topics that promote engaging discussions.
1619: The New York Times produces this podcast which examines the history of American slavery and its enduring impact on society, through politics, economics, and culture.
The Stoop: Through the use of humor and honesty, this podcast features candid conversations about Black identity and culture from the perspectives of the show’s hosts, Leila Day and Hana Baba.
The Read: This podcast discusses pop culture, current events and issues affecting the Black community using humor and insightful commentary by hosts Kid Fury and Crissle West.
Small, Local Black-Owned Businesses
We are proud to support small, black-owned businesses through our United for Business program.
As we commemorate Black History Month, let us reflect on the achievements and contributions of the Black community, both past and present. By embracing diversity and celebrating our shared history, we contribute to a more inclusive and united city.
Join us in honoring the legacy of Black leaders and shaping a future that acknowledges and appreciates the richness of our collective history!
About Brittany Solomon
Born and raised in the Metro Denver area, Brittany Solomon is a part of Mile High United Way’s Human Resources team. She thoughtfully and compassionately supports staff in the areas of recruitment, onboarding and diversity, equity and inclusion. Brittany received her MBA from Colorado Christian University and brings a wealth of human resources experience to our organization.