Washington State Black Legacy Institute finds a home in West Seattle and prepares to present first Business Festival During Kwanzaa

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The city-landmark building at 2656 42nd Avenue SW is now home to history beyond its own.

The former Christian Science church and ex-Sanctuary at Admiral is the new home of the Washington State Black Legacy Institute.

You’re invited to one of WSBLI’s first public events, the Business Festival During Kwanzaa, Friday, December 29, through Sunday, December 31. (More on that later.)

We visited the building to talk with WSBLI’s curator Roger Evans about what’s taking shape. The goal is to unearth the stories of Black Washingtonians whose successes go back as far as the 1800s, not just to ensure those stories aren’t lost in the mist of time, but also to present them to new generations that can be inspired to take action when they see what these people achieved.

The WSBLI will be more than a place where you can go and look at exhibits, Evans explains, saying he and those working with him were drawn to the building because it has so many spaces where visitors can engage with materials and stories interactively. What he’s working with includes a 1926 copy of Who’s Who in Washington State, “centered on the Black community,” including businesspeople who comprised “a hidden Black Wall Street.” Evans is eager to “retell the story … to empower people to be contributors, not disrupters … to let them know they are valued.”

The WSBLI has its roots in the Seattle Griot Project, documenting Black history, and in a trip Evans took to Tulsa last year that reminded him and his traveling partner of the urgency of historic preservation.

They’ve already worked on some displays, portraits, and framings spotlighting historic figures – people like James Shepperson, who recruited Black miners to move to the Roslyn area in the 1880s, and Dr. Nettie Craig Asberry, an activist and founder of the Tacoma NAACP.

Evans has so many people to talk about – there’s also William Grose, “one of the richest Black men in Seattle at the time,” a wealthy landholder.

And there’s a historic figure on his own family tree, his uncle Willie Craven, who in the ’70s became the first African-American elected mayor in Washington State, leading Roslyn, where his grandfather had come to work in the mines.

There have been other efforts to assemble this history, Evans notes, such as the African-American Museum founded in Tacoma in the mid-’90s, lasting about a decade.

(WSBLI has clippings and other materials from its heyday.) Now it’s time, he says, with technology like a touchscreen kiosk in the works for the WSBLI entryway, to “bring our history into the 21st century.”

In addition to developing programming and exhibits for the West Seattle building, including a Hall of Pioneers, they plan to develop traveling materials.

In the new year, Evans says, WSBLI will also be working on a funding campaign to complete their purchase of the building (which is bringing in a bit of income for starters, with a church meeting there weekly). But first – the Business Festival During Kwanzaa. It’s planned for 2-7 pm Friday, December 29, 11 am-7 pm Saturday, December 30, and 11 am-5 pm Sunday, December 31. The goal is “to empower, inspire entrepreneurship, bridge educational gaps, and foster collaboration.” Evans shared some of the workshops that are planned:

The festival and workshops are free, but WSBLI requests RSVP through Eventbrite – here’s the Friday link; here’s the Saturday link; here’s the Sunday link.

Evans promises the festival is just the start – watch for more from WSBLI as they work to remember and honor the past while empowering and inspiring the future.

18 Replies to "Washington State Black Legacy Institute finds a home in West Seattle and prepares to present first Business Festival During Kwanzaa"

  • Lisa Michelle December 19, 2023 (11:21 am)

    What a great use of this beautiful building!

  • JS December 19, 2023 (11:40 am)

    This is great news! So glad West Seattle gets to host this important organization!!

  • beanie December 19, 2023 (12:05 pm)

    So great to hear how this cool site will be used for something important and impactful.

  • RLV December 19, 2023 (12:05 pm)

    This is fantastic news – welcome to the neighborhood, and congratulations!

  • Brian December 19, 2023 (12:37 pm)

    What a great use of a beautiful building!

  • htb December 19, 2023 (1:09 pm)

    Did Duos/Sanctuary at Admiral close? I hadn’t heard.

  • WSHS62 December 19, 2023 (1:37 pm)

     Will the Washington State Black Legacy Institute offer resources for students?  They are in a great location to reach elementary, middle school and high school students.

  • Findlay December 19, 2023 (1:48 pm)

    Congrats on finding a home for your organization.  Looking forward to visit!

  • shed22 December 19, 2023 (2:14 pm)

    Yes!! Welcome to the neighborhood! Looking forward to visiting. 

  • Trileigh December 19, 2023 (2:47 pm)

    This is so exciting! What an honor for WSBLI to locate here. I’m eager to visit.

  • sam-c December 19, 2023 (4:07 pm)

    What a great use for that space and a welcome resource for West Seattle.

  • Daniela December 19, 2023 (5:20 pm)

    Great news!Looking forward to this and other gatherings. 

  • Admiral-2009 December 19, 2023 (6:37 pm)

    This is a winner use of the historic building!

  • Stephanie Johnson-Toliver December 20, 2023 (12:25 am)

    Congrats and thank you to Roger Evans and all who have put so much energy into this space that is dedicated to WA State Black History.  At the Black Heritage Society of Washington State where we preserve the largest public collection of African American memorabilia from across the state,  we are excited for how the Institute is positioned to uplift, honor, and share true history.

  • Joan December 20, 2023 (6:41 am)

    For once a beautiful and historic building will be  preserved and used well. This is wonderful.

  • Michael Goins December 20, 2023 (7:24 am)


  • bloo December 20, 2023 (10:44 pm)

    Wonderful , welcome to the neighborhood!

Sorry, comment time is over.