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Davis Journal

Hill Museum to celebrate Black Military History

Mar 07, 2024 03:55PM ● By Braden Nelsen

HILL AEROSPACE MUSEUM—When thinking about historical figures in Utah, most often what comes to mind are likely images of covered wagons and handcarts, pioneers blazing trails across the West. While this is certainly part of Utah’s history, that’s definitely not the whole picture. There’s a rich diversity that makes up the history of the state, and several institutions are dedicated to bringing that diversity, those stories, and those people to light. 

In 1976, a project titled “Peoples of Utah” was assembled, and released by ethnographer Helen Zeese Papanikolas, and cataloged the stories and experiences of Utahns of many backgrounds, including Greek, Native American, Black, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Mexican-American, Middle Eastern, and others. This groundbreaking work started 48 years ago continues with the efforts of the Utah Historical Society (UHS), and what they have called, the “Peoples of Utah Revisited” project. 

In cooperation with this project, and the UHS, the Hill Aerospace Museum will be hosting a landmark event focused on Black Military History in the state, on March 9. Elisabeth Cropper, Associate Director of Education at the museum shared how events like these are right in line with the mission of the museum, which aims to “inspire and educate people in the community.” For an event like this, there may be no better place.

“This Air Force base,” said Cropper, “is a central part of our story in Northern Utah.” Central is the right word for it, too. Of the thousands and thousands of people that Hill has employed since its early days, many of those who came to work there were minorities. Despite rampant and severe discrimination and segregation in many places across the nation, Hill Air Force Base, said Cropper, was one place where many could find good, steady work for good pay, “They are a part of our story.” 

The event aims to expand and “build the information” surrounding these communities of people, many of whom came from out of state to work at Hill and made a home in the Beehive State. The event is open to anyone and everyone interested in learning more about Black Military History in the state, and the opportunities to learn more about this community will be plentiful. Representatives from the Sema Hadithi African American Heritage and Culture Foundation, as well as from the  Ogden NAACP, the Project Success Coalition, and others will all be present, with invaluable information for attendees. 

While anyone is welcome to attend, people who have materials related to Black Military History in Utah are especially encouraged to attend and bring those materials, be they photos, documents, or anything they are willing to share, and scan. Cropper shared that professionals trained in digital archiving will be on hand to digitize these items, which will become part of the “Peoples of Utah Revisited” project for all to see, and learn from. Scanned items will be returned after they are digitized. 

“We have a vested interest in people understanding the impact that people make in this community,” Cropper said, and while this may be the first event of its kind at the Hill Museum, Cropper hopes it won’t be the last, “This history is valuable…people take a lot of pride serving in the military.” No registration is required for the event, and more information can be found both on the Hill Aerospace Museum Facebook page, as well as by contacting Elisabeth Cropper herself, at - [email protected]