GREAT FALLS — Alma Smith Jacobs is a key contributor to Black History not only in Great Falls, where her image adorns the side of the Great Falls Public Library, but across Montana where she fought for civil rights. The foundation that bears her name will honor her legacy and others when it hosts it’s annual Black Heritage Evening on Thursday.
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Smith Jacobs was a Black History pioneer in Montana. She was the first African American state librarian in Montana and led the rally to build the Great Falls Public Library. For the 14th year, the Alma Smith Jacobs Foundation will host it’s Black Heritage evening.
“It's just to help educate, celebrate and build diversity, you know, unity within our community so that the best way to fight any kind of prejudice is through knowledge,” said Kathy Reed, a member of the Alma Smith Jacobs Foundation and longtime friend of Smith Jacobs.
The event is open to all and starts at 6:00 p.m. in the Cordingley Room at the Library. The guest speaker is Kate Hampton of the Montana Historical Society, who will speak about her documentary, Hidden Stories: Montana’s Black Past.”
Historian Ken Robison says Hampton’s work along with local efforts have played a big role in telling the story of Black History in Montana.
“She'll be talking about the statewide effort that we really instigated with the work here in Great Falls, on making black history available throughout the state, even with things like lesson plans for teachers to use with students,” said Robison.
Also on the program are presentations from Reed and local historian Ken Robison, Great Falls Mayor Cory Reeves, The Malmstrom Air Force Base Diversity and Inclusion Council, Bishop Marcus Collins, the Alexander Temple Saints Dancers and the Community Gospel Choir.
“We have an emphasis on black heritage, culture and cuisine,” said Robison. “You can come hungry. It's not just the sampling. We talk about a sampling of soul food. Well, here's a full meal.”
Growing up in Great Falls, Reed says she’s seen a steady increase in the acceptance of Black history and heritage. She’s happy that both high schools have started diversity groups.
“The more we offer, the more we do, the more people can understand and have experiences,” said Reed.