Press Release

Black Excellence and Women’s Resilience is Honored in History Colorado’s Upcoming Exhibition

Exhibition part of History Colorado’s effort to illuminate the often overlooked history of Black accomplishments

DENVER — April 6, 2023 — The History Colorado Center is unveiling its newest exhibition, The Dry: Black Women’s Legacy in a Farming Community, on April 14. This exhibition will look at the little known history of The Dry, a predominantly Black farming community in southeast Colorado, and the legacy of the powerful women who built and sustained this close knit community. 

Luke Perkins
303.866.3670 | 

Founded in the early 1900s, The Dry is part of the long and often overlooked history of Black accomplishments in the Centennial State. Drawing its origins back to Josephine and Lenora Rucker who, along with George Swink, founded the community and began convincing Black families from across the nation to claim land in Otero County under the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909.

Originally passed in 1862, the Homestead Act was a seminal piece of legislation in United States history that allowed citizens to acquire parcels of 160 acres from the public domain. This gave land ownership opportunities to a wider range of US citizens, including women and people of color.

A story of Black agricultural excellence, The Dry: Black Women’s Legacy in a Farming Community explores how, despite challenging conditions, the families of The Dry persevered,  transformed the landscape of southeast Colorado, established a community that existed outside of a racially segregated America, and forged a legacy of freedom, family and resilience.

“It's all about legacy and really highlighting things that history has forgotten,” said Alice McDonald, the last living resident of The Dry and Matriarch of the Craig Family who stewards the legacy of this farming community. “The Dry is the perfect example of that, people from all over coming here for opportunity, to live the American dream. People going out west to make their own way, an example of, against all the odds, man versus nature, and nature just kind of got better.” 

Using photographs from descendants and oral histories from former residents, The Dry exhibition expands the understanding of the significant contributions of the Black community to farming on the Eastern Plains and the Homestead Act, both of which have largely been presented from the perspective of White homesteaders.

“When developing this exhibition we worked directly with the families of The Dry and gave them the opportunity to tell the story of their families,” said Dexter Nelson II, Associate Curator of African American History and Cultural Heritage. “This type of work is a growing movement in museums as we are sharing authority over history with the people who are best equipped to share it. By lending the expertise of trained historians and exhibit developers to the people who lived this history we are better able to contextualize it inside the broader scope of our shared past and see how it continues to affect our present.” 

To celebrate the opening of this exhibition History Colorado will be hosting an opening reception on April 14 from 6 – 8 p.m. This reception will feature stories from the Craig Family, and Nelson II, about The Dry and the Black experience in Colorado. Cash bar and light refreshments will be available during the opening reception of The Dry: Black Women’s Legacy in a Farming Community, and while this free event is open to the public, RSVP is required.

About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 143-year-old institution that operates eleven museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation which provides technical assistance, educational opportunities, and other access to archaeology and historic preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is one of the nation’s largest state funded preservation programs of its kind. More than 70% of SHF grants are allocated in rural areas of the state. Additionally, the offices of the State Archaeologist and the State Historic Preservation Officer are part of History Colorado. 

History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and 10 other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information. #HistoryColorado