Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library: Celebrating 15 Years of Public Service

Celebrating 15 Yeears of Public Service Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library

Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library
On Saturday, April 28, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library will celebrate its 15th anniversary with an Open House to the community.
We first opened our new branch to the public and began the process of becoming a full-fledged community library in Denver’s Five Points Neighborhood and beyond on April 26, 2003.
Prior to 2003, we were a small, one-room branch of the Denver Public Library in the heart of the Five Points neighborhood.  Fifteen years later, Blair-Caldwell Library has established itself as a full-service branch library, which also houses a nationally recognized museum, a collection archives, a research library, and an art/exhibit gallery. We are an educational and cultural resource for the people of Denver, Colorado, and the world. Our unique focus is to collect and preserve the history and culture of African Americans in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain West. 
“What makes Blair-Caldwell special is how it serves the Five Points neighborhood as a branch library, the entire city as a vibrant hub of African American community events and the nation as a research center and museum celebrating the African American experience in the Rocky Mountain West.”  Michelle Jeske, City Librarian 
“Blair-Caldwell Library became much more than a remarkable museum, archives and a branch library through the efforts of the people – staff, volunteers, customers – who gave us a sense of community. That community spoke volumes during the past fifteen years through jazz concerts, authors’ visits, story times, genealogy programs, research, and extending a sincere welcome to all who walk through its doors,” Jim Kroll, Manager, DPL’s Western History & Genealogy and Blair-Caldwell AAR Library
Our branch is named for two esteemed Coloradans Omar D. Blair and Elvin R. Caldwell. Both men were highly committed advocates for the Denver African American community, and they made a difference in the lives of many people in Colorado. In 1973, Omar D. Blair was the first African American to be elected president of the Denver Board of Education. He is best remembered for helping dismantle segregation in Denver public schools. He served 12 years with the Board, including a four-year term as president. During World War II, Blair reached the rank of captain with the famed Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.
In 1955, Elvin R. Caldwell was elected to the Denver City Council. He was the first African American to serve on a city council west of the Mississippi River. Caldwell’s 28-year tenure with the Council also included a five-year term as president. Caldwell played a key role in effecting change throughout Colorado in matters of housing and economic development, discrimination against people of color on the golf course and in the Denver fire and police departments. He was also an advocate for children around Colorado. He helped to establish the Eastside Neighborhood Health Center and the Five Points Community Center.
Our branch library is a 40,000 square foot building, which was designed by Denver’s OZ Architecture and Harold Massop Associates Architecture, P.C. 
Some Blair-Caldwell Library highlights include:
With the help of archivists from Denver Public Library’s Western History department, we are now able to provide digital access to over 90 new archival collections to the public. 
We’ve realized a steady influx of middle, high school and college students from both public and private schools around Colorado being directed by their respective teachers and professors to utilize our numerous sources in-library to learn about African American history and culture, i.e., museum tours, archives projects and use of our research collection. Sources in our museum and archives are now included in local high school and college curricula.
The BCL archives preserves the original manumission papers of the Smith Family. Robert Smith, a former slave from Virginia, hired himself out as a barber over a 10 year period to buy his freedom and the freedom of his wife and two children. The Smith Family were manumitted from slavery in 1834. 
Programming, art/exhibits and tour/speaker requests at our library have exploded. Numerous events and activities are being held in every available public use space in our library.  Some key highlights include the following:
YouthBiz Startup Spring Break Mini Camp where middle school students learn, think, speak and act like an entrepreneur. This week-long program started at our branch and expanded this year to the Pauline Robinson and Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales branch libraries.
The Charles and Dorothy Cousins Changing Gallery has realized increased use and exposure in the community by providing locally-established and new artists exhibit space for their works. The gallery hosts both national and local exhibits. 
Tour and speaker requests have risen from Colorado public and private schools, organizations and businesses, family reunions and churches bringing their respective groups to BCL for tours of our museum and/or speaker requests from Denver communities and beyond about various aspects of African American history and culture. The Blair-Caldwell Library’s museum and archives have emerged as a national and local voice on the history and contributions of African Americans in the Intermountain West.
Toys-for-Tots Giveaway, an enormously popular end of year event, has grown exponentially at our branch. Community organizations and leaders, businesses and individual donations of materials (books, toys and games, etc.) for children are brought to our branch to be shared with families in the community. This a popular community give-away event before the Christmas holiday. 
“Join us on Saturday, April 28, 2018, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., at Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street, Denver, CO 80205, to hear the stories, view artifacts, and learn about the archives of the known and unknown African Americans and organizations that built communities in the Rocky Mountain West.” Charleszine “Terry” Nelson, Senior Special Collection and Community Resource Manager, Blair-Caldwell Library.

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