African Americans

Someday a historian will write a Nebraska History article examining the George Floyd protests in our state. In the meantime we can look to the past to better understand the present.

Newspaper portraits of a man and woman, Claude and Nellie Nethaway

Omaha was shocked when the wife of a Florence real estate man was brutally murdered in 1917. A suspect was soon in custody, but was he the right man?

Morton tried to keep slavery legal in Nebraska before the Civil War, showed questionable loyalty to the US during the war, and tried to keep black men from voting afterward. But is it fair to pass judgment on people of the past? Here's what we can learn from one of Nebraska’s leading statesmen.

Jesse Ishikawa and Rev. Trago T. McWilliams

Jesse Ishikawa and Rev. Trago T. McWilliams

Joseph Ishikawa came to Nebraska from a Colorado internment camp during World War II. As a city employee in 1946 he challenged a longstanding policy barring African Americans from the municipal pool. When a multiracial coalition pressured city leaders, officials claimed they didn’t support the rule… even as they resisted changing it.

Image of Nebraska's first capitol

First Nebraska State Capitol, constructed in Lincoln from 1867 to 1868. NSHS RG1234-1 On March 1, 1867, President Andrew Johnson reluctantly signed the proclamation declaring Nebraska’s statehood. The signing ended the life of a territory which thirteen years earlier had been organized amid controversy.

One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered going through our John Falter collection in the last few years is how and how much of his personal interests, friends, and environs manifested themselves in his art.  Jazz is a great example.  Falter loved jazz from an early age and was a talented self-taught musician (clarinet and piano to be sure–perhaps even other instruments).   As a teen in Falls City he played in a band with George “Pee Wee” Erwin, who went on to a successful career as a jazz trumpeter.

The jazz theme appears in his teenage sketch/scrapbook . . .

RG813-445

A 1924 event in Wilber, Nebraska, featured “Dan Desdune’s Band and Minstrel Show of Omaha. Colored Entertainers Supreme.” NSHS RG813-445 (at left).

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