The Idaho State Historic Preservation Office focuses on identifying significant historical locations and adding them to the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, the office has been focusing on mapping significant locations in Idaho’s Black history. Dan Everhart works as the office’s outreach historian.
“I think the efforts of our agency and our office, in particular, reflect a trend nationwide in seeking to better represent the full spectrum of America's history and Idaho’s history for that matter,” Everhart said. “Telling these underrepresented stories whether they be about Black Idahoans or other racial or ethnic minorities is important because for so long the stories that have been told and reflected in our programs including the National Register of Historic Places have really focused on one particular story… focused on Idaho’s white population.”
They have focused on groups in Boise and Pocatello that came to Idaho with the railroad industry, and other industries surrounding it. Although Idaho’s population is majority white, there are Black Idahoans with deep roots in the state.
“There are long-term African American legacy families that live in both Pocatello and Boise and have for multiple generations,” Everhart said. “And those families are very proud of their Idaho roots and their Idaho stories and we’re working with those communities and those families in part to better tell and better express those stories.”
Locating these historic sites isn’t always easy.
“There were efforts in the 1960s, 70s and beyond to really erase the neighborhoods where those racial minorities lived,” Everhart said. “This was an era of urban renewal… there wasn’t much regard for the places and the stories that they told.”
However, the Historic Preservation Office has been able to document several sites. One example is the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Pocatello, which was significant in the civil rights movement in Pocatello. The Idaho State Historic Preservation Office encourages anyone with stories regarding Idaho’s black history to contact them.
For more information about the office's work, click here.