African American Lead Miners In Wisconsin

Thanks to the work of five University of Wisconsin – Platteville students, a new exhibit at the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums explores the stories of African American Lead Miners in this region. The lead boom brought thousands of people of European descent to the region, and over 100 African Americans between 1830 and 1850.

Tori Kosobucki, Simone Rand, Deja Roberson, Winifred Redfearn, and Elizabeth Larrison, under the tutelage of Professor Eugene Tesdahl at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, scoured local archives for information about these miners. “We’re not putting them in [the exhibits] for political correctness. We’re putting them in because they really lived, worked, retired and died a lead miner in Wisconsin,” Tesdahl said.

“The work that these students did far exceeded our expectations,” Museum Director Bolander said. “Their research unearthed interesting and relevant stories, and their presentations engaged people of all ages.”

The African American Lead Miners in Wisconsin exhibit was developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville History 4720 Course in 2017 led by Dr. Eugene R. H. Tesdahl. This exhibit would not be possible without his vision and willingness to partner with the Museums.

Special gratitude goes to:

Dr. Eugene R.H. Tesdahl, Assistant Professor of History at University of Wisconsin- Platteville for coordinating this project.

University of Wisconsin-Platteville students Simone Rand, Tori Kosobucki, Deja Roberson, Liz Larrison, and Winnie Redfearn for researching this exhibit and uncovering untold stories.

The Southwest Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, especially James Hibbard and Pat Ballweg, for guiding manuscript research.

Professor Christy Clark-Pujara (Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin- Madison), Assistant Professor Frank King (Ethnic Studies, University of Wisconsin- Platteville), and Tracey Roberts (History, Senior Lecturer Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Platteville) for your invaluable commentary and consultation.

Dr. Melissa Gormley, LAE Dean at University of Wisconsin-Platteville for her support of the project.

Image: James D. Williams Portrait, Photograph, Courtesy of the Iowa County Historical Society.

James Williams, courtesy of the Iowa County Historical Society.

Winner of the 2019 Mining History Association’s Beselme-Orrell Mining Heritage Award

On June 8, 2019, the importance of the African American Lead Miners in Wisconsin exhibit was recognized when the Mining History Association presented the Museums with the 2019 Beselme-Orrell Mining Heritage Award for the exhibit at its annual conference in Marquette, Michigan.

Partnership on African American lead mining exhibit leads to award

Award Mining History Association

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