The Black Community Of Butte: Growth And Decline From 1890 to 1950
Many studies have been written on the boom-town mining city of Butte, Montana. The growth of the city, the politics which dominated front pages for the last years of the 19th century and spilled over into the 20th, the Anaconda Company which made Butte one of the most dominant powers in the world in the copper industry, and the long since, slow decline of mining and population have all been studied. Butte was a big city of the West, but its people still call it a "camp." Big business typified Butte, as did the merchant and the laborer. And finally, the ethnic groups proved to be an important aspect of Butte. However, some of these groups have gone unnoticed in the annals of Butte history. One such group were the blacks who occupied Butte in significant numbers from 1890 to 1940. But why would a strong Afro-American community have settled in Butte? Historically, Butte has treated the blacks rather poorly, worse than any other ethnic group. For example, feelings of discrimination caused many Filipinos to be victims of "accidents" in the mine shafts. The blacks, in comparison, were not even allowed to work in the mines. Helena, which had a substantial black community was a haven for Afro-Americans because it was a service town. But Butte was not a service town and this problem, coupled with the harsh discrimination from German and Irish immigrants, should have forestalled black community development. Yet despite all this, a strong social, religious, and political community eventually grew up in Butte in the early 20th century.