WASHINGTON DC – Colorado US Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper introduced the Dearfield Study Act, a bill that would direct the Department of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of the Dearfield Homestead in Weld County to determine its eligibility as a unit of the national park system.
“Black history is American history. This legislation is a critical first step in recognizing and preserving the memory of Dearfield, Colorado and black settlement in the American West,” Bennet said.
“Dearfield is a testament to Black Americans who shaped Colorado’s history,” Hickenlooper said. “We must honor her legacy and educate future generations by protecting Dearfield Homestead.”
Dearfield Homestead was founded in 1910 by Oliver Toussaint Jackson, who was inspired by Booker T. Washington to found the colony on the belief that owning land was the best path to prosperity for African Americans.
At its peak, Dearfield grew to 700 residents from 35 states on 140 acres and included several churches, restaurants, shops and a hotel. Up until the widespread and devastating Dust Bowl, Dearfield was a thriving agricultural community and fostered resilience and ownership with 47 patented land claims covering 31 square miles.
A gas station, diner and Jackson’s home, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, currently remain.
Bennet and Hickenlooper’s bill follows the bill introduced in January 2022 by Colorado US Representatives Joe Neguse, Ken Buck and Jason Crow.
In particular, the Dearfield Study Act would assess the national importance of the site; determining the suitability and feasibility of designating the site as an entity of the National Park Service; where appropriate, consider other alternatives for conservation and protection; identify cost estimates; and will report the findings of the study and any recommendations to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee within three years.
“Our national parks are sacred places that have the power to interpret, question and honor our past and present. Preserving Dearfield for present and future generations is an essential part of better understanding the unique and relatively unknown African American experience on Colorado’s eastern plains, and this work is also a bridge that can connect us to a broader, more representative history of our nation.” , said Tracy Coppola, Colorado senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, “We are thrilled to have Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet leading this effort in partnership with key regional stakeholders including the Black American West Museum, the University of Northern Colorado and Weld County Commissioners, and we are assisting the National Park Service in conducting a special resource study to determine the future feasibility of incorporation of the site into the national park system.”
This effort follows the success of the bipartisan Amache National Historic Site Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2022. Led by Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse, and Buck, the Amache National Historic Site Act established Camp Amache, a former Japanese American penitentiary outside of Granada as part of the national park system.
Information from Senator Michael Bennett’s office