Photo Credit: Marc Romanelli
Blackdom: New Mexico's First-Known Thriving Black Community
Located about 18 miles south of Roswell, Blackdom was founded in 1901 and incorporated in 1903 by thirteen African Americans. It is known as the first Black community in New Mexico.
Homesteader Francis Marion Boyer, who was fleeing threats from the Ku Klux Klan, spearheaded the idea of Blackdom with other Black families. By 1908, the town had reached its pinnacle with a population of 300 people. They set up businesses, there was a church, post office, schools, and a local newspaper.
“Blackdom proved Black people could thrive, not just survive,” African American historian and author Timothy Nelson, said in a more than 200-page dissertation on the rise and fall of Blackdom for the University of Texas at El Paso. “They called it Blackdom for a reason. This was a Black kingdom where sovereigns lived.”
Black families from Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, and other states reportedly migrated to Blackdom after Boyer made it his mission to attract more families to the region. He traveled across the country with photos in hand to show families the potential in New Mexico.
“Here the black man has an equal chance with the white man. Here you are reckoned at the value which you place upon yourself. Your future is in your own hands.”
These are words were written by Lucy Henderson to the editor of the Black publication, The Chicago Defender, in December 1912. Henderson tried to persuade others to settle in the home she had found in Blackdom.
“I feel I owe it to my people to tell them of this free land out here,” she said.
But Blackdom didn’t last long, as crop failures and other calamities caused a decline in population by the 1920s and the community did not survive the Great Depression.
Little remains of the town and the only thing in its historic place is a plaque on a highway.