Roswell, NM

New Mexico's First African American Settlement

D Moreno

It was the late 1890’s, in the years after the Civil War, where racial edges and meanings were blurred, a Georgia man named Frank Boyer witnessed a white man kill a black barber for nicking him while shaving. The white man was eventually arrested and charged with murder, however during his trial he was acquitted by an all-white jury in less than 10 minutes. “After all,” they said, “he had been nicked twice.” This had infuriated black Georgians all over the state. Many had lived through the terror of slavery and the Civil War and were witnesses to all that was to follow. It was a stressful time and may had been one of the most dangerous times for the African Americans, as there was still the threat to keep them in social and political weakness. With the new segregation laws and more dangerously new social organizations, the South felt like a place that would never be safe.

Francis Boyer trekked 2,000 miles from Georgia to New Mexico with his friend Dan Keys with a dream to support a free and prosperous community from the shelter of the Jim Crow laws. Black town movements had already begun by the time Frank and Dan arrived at the borderlands of New Mexico.

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In 1903, the community of Blackdom, on the plains near Roswell, NM, was officially founded and the towns principal figure would be Francis Boyer. This would become the first Negro settlement in New Mexico. The region was the most desirable for progressive agriculture. Settlement and prosperity advanced rapidly due to the discovery of the natural pressurized aquifers of Artesian waters which would eventually dry up. Homesteads began to materialize throughout the valley and Blackdom flourished alongside neighboring communities. Blackdom would grow to 300 residents. Basic institutions sprouted, a Baptist church, general store, schoolhouse, and post office. Aspiring Blackdom farmers, attempted dry farming, small vegetable gardens, forage crops, such as corn and kaffir, some even attempted to plant apple trees. The community’s demise began around 1916, with drought conditions, crop blight and financial woes. This would slowly force departure of many families. There had been a brief period of prosperity, but the 1920s brought undercurrents of racial and political tension as well. In the end, it was the confluence of environmental factors that would contribute to Blackdom’s failure. The history of Blackdom has been largely neglected and only scattered memories lie on the windswept plains of New Mexico.

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www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/welcome-to-blackdom-the-ghost-town-that-was-new-mexicos-first-black-settlement

Rodriguez, Helena (January 17, 2010). "Memorial to be built for Little-Known Black Community". Clovis News Journal. Archived

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I write a variety of local, unique and historical articles. Military wife, Mother of two.

Roswell, NM
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