Almost Free

Almost Free

A History of the Black Experience in Arizona

Program Time: 48 minutes


People often believe the history of Black Americans and the struggle for equality took place only “back east,” or in the south. Our purpose here is to share the stories and experiences of westward immigrants whose pioneer spirit, by necessity, had to extend beyond the settling of the frontier.

The U.S. Census of 1870 lists ‘Blacks – 27’ in Arizona Territory. A century and a quarter later, they still comprise only about five percent of the population. Owing, perhaps, to these small numbers, the history of African Americans in the southwest is the least known and least told of any group.

The facts are that there were Black cowboys, ranchers, farmers, editors, merchants, soldiers, gun-slingers, athletes, artists, and politicians. The program also examines the significant historical role of the ‘black church.’

Of particular interest is the Territorial legislature’s actions segregating schools and outlawing inter-racial marriage. Included are a variety of individuals who relate their difficult and sometimes violent experiences in early times. Also recounted are the activities in Arizona during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Listen for the music of the choir from the First Institutional Baptist Church.

Featured participants include:
Reverend George Brooks – Civil rights leader
Joseph Flipper – Educator
Dr. Eugene Grigsby – Artist; educator
Richard E. Harris – Journalist
Helen Mason – Theater troupe founder
William P. Mahoney – Attorney; civil right leader
James McElroy – First person observations
Dr. Lincoln Ragsdale – Civil rights leader
Senoma Smith – First person observations
Reverend Warren Stewart – Civil rights leader
Charles Thomas – Former Chief of Police
Dr. Morrison Warren – Educator; first person observations