As part of the “Facing The Rising Sun” – The Journey of African American Homesteaders in New Mexico exhibition at the Albuquerque Museum, Social Historian Rita Powdrell in this presentation focused on homesteaders in Albuquerque, NM and the vision of land ownership and how this vision and the sovereign ownership of land helped to develop a sovereign African American Community in Albuquerque which flourished. The program was held on Sunday, June 19, 2022 at the Albuquerque Museum at 2000 Mountain Rd. NW in Old Town.
The presentation will center around:
- The social climate of the time from the end of Reconstruction, the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1885 and the adoption of Jim Crow Laws.
- The migration West to New Mexico and Albuquerque for a myriad number of reasons – Buffalo Soldiers, health (tuberculosis), opportunity in the mining and railroad, industries, etc. The highly educated and the uneducated.
- The first fixation on land and land ownership as a means of maintaining sovereignty. The acquisition of land through homesteading and the purchase of real estate. The second fixation was the education of the youth. A vision of self-reliance and a belief in its reality in the face of oppression.
- The ownership of real estate and the development of a sense of community, where even with a college education, the only jobs available were in service industries such as the railroad and post office. Ownership of land and vision for the land led to an African American community full of entrepreneurship.
- The entrepreneurship of men and women. The development of churches, social clubs and the independent education of the young through these churches and clubs. Ownership of newspapers, boarding homes, construction companies, hospitals, restaurants, night clubs, barber and beautician shops, and catering businesses. An industrious and thriving community and a sense of oneness even though African Americans lived in many different pockets in the city.
- A social climate that attracted notables from across the country, including some of the family of Madame C. J. Walker, famous entertainers and writers.
- How the social climate starting in the mid 1950’s changed among the young and caused the community to shift – a shift triggered by that very fixation on education but also encompassing military service and opportunity calling from other states. The establishment of the East End Addition*, including the fulfillment of vision and belief, its beginnings, and its decline.
- Where we are today – Real Estate and Education – the Black Education Act.
Rita A. Powdrell is a Social Historian and graduate of the University of New Mexico. She is currently Director of the African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico, an initiative started in 2002. Ms. Powdrell is an Albuquerque entrepreneur with Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque House, a family owned business since 1962. She has been with the company since 1983. She is married to Joe Powdrell with four grown children, nine grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.
*East End Addition
Albuquerque’s first suburban African American neighborhood, the East End Addition, was platted in 1938 by Henry Outley. The addition ran from Pennsylvania St. to Wyoming Blvd., and Lomas Blvd. to Constitution Ave. Henry had a vision of creating a suburban neighborhood, but it was difficult for him, as an African American developer, to acquire the loans he needed to proceed. Instead, he sold or gave away lots to other African Americans. Henry eventually deeded the East End addition to his adoptive daughter, Virginia Outley Ballou. Virginia also struggled to build up the addition. From the originally platted 24 blocks, she and contractor J.S. Jones succeeded in developing 22 homes on two blocks. In the 1950s and 1960s, these and other houses in the neighborhood were purchased by African American families. Over time the addition has become more racially mixed.
Watch “Hidden History” Segment by KRQE TV, about the East End Addition, Albuquerque’s first African American Suburb.
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