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A look at Utah's first Black History Museum

Posted at 5:12 PM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-28 20:49:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's first-ever Black History Museum was unveiled Saturday in Salt Lake City.

The exhibit is housed in a repurposed school bus and will travel to schools and community spaces across the state, bringing with it stories of Black excellence and often overlooked figures in Utah's history.

"It is so important that all children learn about the Black pioneers that came here, and the cowboys, and the musicians, right?" Black Lives Matter Utah founder Lex Scott said. "It's important for all kids to learn all history."

Scott added the museum will give all Utahns a chance to learn a more complete history of the state.

"It's a vision that was created a couple of years ago, and it's taken this much time and a lot of effort to get to this point, this day," said Liz Lambson, a museum board member and artist who helped paint the murals covering the bus. "I learned about a lot of historical figures that I had never heard of before, didn't know anything about. That just goes to show how much we need this museum."

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The bus's exterior features portraits of Black Americans who've shaped our nation's history, as well as figures from Utah's past who are not typically discussed in history textbooks — figures like Jane Manning James.

"Jane is one of the first Black women that ever came to Salt Lake City," said Gretel Tam, a local Salt Lake City artist whose work covers one half of the bus. "I think a lot of times in Utah when we think about our history, we think of pioneers. We don't necessarily think about Black individuals — especially Black women — and her story is very inspirational."

The traveling museum contains stories, images and artifacts of America's troubled history and mistreatment of its Black citizens. But there is also a focus on the great impacts Black Americans have had on our nation and world.

"There is so much good that Black people have contributed to our societies, to the world, and to the Utah community," Lambson added.

Ultimately, the creators of the exhibit hope it will serve as a catalyst for difficult conversations many stray away from — conversations about race and racism in both the U.S. as a whole, and here in Utah. The bus will begin traveling around the state in the coming weeks.