BOISE, Idaho. At its core, Black History Month is a celebratory observation of the contributions and sacrifices of our nation's African American community. Though it's widely known that the tradition's origins spring from the Jim Crow era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the sitting president and director of the Idaho Black History Museum points out:

People often forget Idaho...passed a civil rights law three years before the U.S. did. —Phillip Thompson


RECOGNIZING IDAHO'S civil rights pioneer family

On Idaho's unique role and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, Thompson's own family helped pen its rich and storied history.

Thompson is the great-grandson of the late Rev. William Riley Hardy, the founder and first pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church, Boise's first African American church erected in 1921. Today, the historic former chapel serves as the home of the Idaho Black History Museum, relocated in Julia Davis Park.

Dorothy Buckner, Thompson's grandmother, is known and respected for playing a substantial role in the passage of Idaho's first civil rights bill of 1961—three years before the feds rolled out the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Click here for a look at the 1961 Idaho Fair Employment Practices Act.

Thompson's mother, Cherie Buckner-Webb (D), made history as Idaho's first African American state legislator as well as the state's first African American female legislator.

Today, the fifth-generation Idahoan serves as Vice Chair (Zone 5) Trustee Liaison to the Foundation Board for the College of Western Idaho. Buckner-Webb is also the founder of Sojourner Coaching, a recording artist, and the recipient of the 2004 Idaho Governor's Award.


Below, Thompson's grandmother, Dorothy Buckner, is honored by her family in a 2020 Facebook post shared by the Idaho Black History Museum.

THE DETERIORATION OF IDAHO'S civil rights reputation

What happened? How did it come to be that so few are aware of Idaho's exceptional leadership in the Civil Rights Movement? Unfortunately the contributions of the Gem State's African American patriots were eclipsed by hatred.

The establishment of the Aryan Nation white supremacy group in northern Idaho during the 1970s along with the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 stole the spotlight from our state's monumental civil rights achievements. On Idaho's unfairly tarnished reputation, Thomas echoes the opinions of many Idahoans:

I think that Idaho has really gotten pulled, their name has been run through the dirt by people from outside of Idaho and we've got to kind of take that back.


SANDPOINT, Idaho. Three years ago, residents of Sandpoint stood up to the hatred that had overshadowed our state for more than 30 years. "Idaho Is Too Great for Hate" was launched by Inside Out Project, a student-launched initiative, in Sep. 2020.

We are a group of youth who call Sandpoint, Idaho our home. We want our faces to be seen and our voices to be heard. We stand for equality for all - no exceptions. We are dedicated to understanding the ways racism and bigotry have impacted our community. Our group action stands for tolerance, inclusivity, and respect for all citizens and visitors. We believe that by respecting and celebrating each other's differences, we create a loving place that everyone can be proud of.

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