Mural of Nga Vương-Sandoval by Artist/Muralist Thomas Evans (I Am Detour), located on Champa between 23rd & 24th Streets in Denver, December 2021. Jason Hanson


The Colorado Magazine’s 2021 Year in Review

Oh what a year it was. From ongoing racial reckonings to remarkable women and from Indigenous voices to recreational pursuits, The Colorado Magazine explored how we got to now in ways that helped us gain perspective on another extraordinary year.

When we reclaimed our name as The Colorado Magazine a year-and-a-half ago, we promised that in these pages—both print and online—we would continue to document, explore, and share the experiences that join us together as Coloradans. Through another challenging year, we’ve remained focused on that expansive and inclusive mission. While for many of us the review for 2021 might read something like “better than 2020; still not great,” at The Colorado Magazine it has been a year to remember

During the last twelve months, your TCM team did our best to do what we do best: Bringing you compelling original scholarship, insights, and perspectives on how we got to now. It’s what The Colorado Magazine has been about for nearly a century (in 2022 we’re entering our ninety-ninth year as the state’s historical publication of record), and we’re proud of how many of the articles we published this year enhance that legacy. We began with the Hindsight 20/20 project, asking twenty historians and leading thinkers today to share their vision of how 2020 would go down in history (here’s mine, and the rest are at The Colorado Magazine online). We moved out from there, publishing features that delve deep into Colorado history and articles that connect the past to our present. 

What follows are some of the pieces we think are worth a second read (or deserve a new chance to be discovered). We hope you enjoy them now as much as we enjoyed bringing them to you. 

The Pandemic Isn’t Over Yet (As Much As We Wish It Was) 

Less than a week after the pandemic began disrupting daily life in Colorado in 2020, we launched a program to capture this “history in the making.” As the pandemic continued to disrupt our lives for a second year, we stayed with the effort to document the experience so that future generations will know what it was like to live through Covid-19. 

Remembering When Covid-19 Became Real: A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, we looked back at the moments when it first touched our lives. Each story was unique, but together they painted a collective portrait of a historic moment. 

Living Through the Pandemic: We chronicled the ways in which the ongoing pandemic was affecting communities around the state, from recent immigrants to Native communities. Marissa Volpe worked with Latino immigrants in the Roaring Fork Valley to record, in their own words, how they were living through the pandemic. Adrianne Maddux, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Shungapavi (Second Mesa) and director of Denver Indian Health and Family Services, shared the reasons she feels the urgency of protecting tribal communities and culture—and why she sees reason for hope.

Chronicling Our Ongoing Racial Reckoning

As Americans continue to grapple with legacies of institutionalized racism and the ways it shapes our lives today, authors in The Colorado Magazine explored multiple dimensions of that difficult history. 

Remembering George Floyd: A year after protests erupted around Colorado and the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we looked back at how our curators and museum staff worked to record this history in the making with striking photographs and moment-capturing artifacts

Confronting White Supremacy: On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we published an essay by Carla S. King and William M. King in our “disCOurse” series that asked whether America is capable of realizing the promise King saw from the mountaintop. Ahead of our release of digitized, searchable versions of Denver’s KKK membership ledgers this summer, Ann Sneesby-Koch looked at how Denver’s Black newspapers raised the alarm and rallied resistance against one of Hollywood’s most notoriously racist blockbusters, and Sam Bock considered what a forty-year-old book on the Colorado Klan teaches us about hate groups today

Exposing Abuses at Indian Boarding Schools: After the revelation of hundreds of unmarked graves at boarding schools for Indigenous children in Canada, Holly Norton and Glenys Echavarri looked at the dark history of these institutions in the United States and their legacy in Colorado. Ann Sneesby-Koch, meanwhile, showed us that the shocking mistreatment of Native children was well-known at the turn of the last century, when something might have been done to help them. 

Spotlighting the Crisis Affecting Indigenous Women: Indigenous women face some of the most shocking statistics of violence of any group. Monycka Snowbird (Anishinaabe) wrote a powerful essay exploring the historical trauma that haunts Indigenous women to this day.

Exploring the History of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes: After coming across a newspaper notice of the lynching of a Chinese man in the long-forgotten mining camp of Gothic, Benjamin Wong Blonder undertook a deeply personal journey into Colorado history, contemplating who really “belongs” in our narratives about the past—and our present.

Reconsidering a Namesake: As many communities around Colorado re-examined how our public buildings and places are named, Jonathan Rees took a look at one man who left his mark on Pueblo: Richard Corwin was an outsized personality with CF&I, one of the state’s largest employers, in the early twentieth century. He was also an advocate for eugenics who based his Progressive approach to welfare capitalism in his racist worldview. Later in the year, Rees looked into CF&I’s use of spies to attempt to thwart the labor movement in southern Colorado. 

Spotlighting Remarkable Women

The Woman Who Shaped Colorado’s History: Agnes Wright Spring was a pathbreaking author, suffragist, and historian. Kaylyn Mercuri Flowers introduced TCM readers to the remarkable woman who was, among other notable achievements, Colorado’s second State Historian. 

The Master Weaver of the San Luis Valley: Far beyond Eppie Archuleta’s technical abilities, awards, and accolades as a master weaver, she was a weaver of artistry and legacy. Raena Vigil shared the story of a woman whose work was strengthened by the warp of her ancestors and enriched by the weft of faith, love, and kindness.

Women of the Borderlands: Mestiza and Indigenous women were often at the heart of intercultural collision and coalescence in the borderlands,” wrote Dawn DiPrince, introducing readers to women who shaped the culture of the borderlands of southern Colorado. 

Letters Colorado’s Women’s Suffrage Leaders Probably Didn’t Want You to Read: There’s no time for mincing words when one is trying to win the vote. Shaun Boyd sifted through letters written by the organizers of Colorado’s women’s vote campaign, and found a few things they might not have wished to preserve for posterity.

Keeping Track of Our Changing World

From devastating wildfires to record heat waves to drought and a historic lack of snow, Colorado’s environment was a leading story in 2021. We looked back at how natural disasters can affect a community for generations, and what opportunities exist to collaborate in securing our environmental future. 

A Natural Disaster Whose Impact Is Still Felt a Century Later: One hundred years after a flood devastated Pueblo, a trio of articles chronicled the destruction and considered the disaster’s lasting legacy. Jonathan Rees tried to answer the surprisingly difficult question of just how many people died during the flood and came away with a sense of how the flood's impact has continued to shape Pueblo to this day. Bethany Williams and Jori Johnson shared photographs of the catastrophe’s aftermath. And Katie Arntzen, Megan Eflin, and Sarah Doll reported on efforts to locate the flood victims’ mass grave at Roselawn Cemetery. 

Collective Loss, Collaborative Recovery: Amid a historic wildfire season, Ernest House Jr., a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and descendant of an extremely long line of environmental stewards, highlighted opportunities to work together to protect our environment. “The threats to our lands are intertwined,” he noted, “but so are the benefits of protecting them.”

Imagining a Great City: Celebrating our new Building Denver exhibition, Anna Mascorella shared stories about Colorado’s capital city that extended our explorations of Denver’s history beyond the new marquee exhibition, from John Henderson, Denver’s first licensed Black architect, to the legacies of Mayor Federico Peña’s “Imagine a Great City” campaign.

You Deserve a Little Relaxation

We all need chances to relax, recreate, and recharge, and your Colorado Magazine team gets almost as much enjoyment out of exploring the history of sports and recreation in our state as we do from actually getting out there.  

Hitting the Links: As golf courses continued to provide a refuge from the pandemic for many duffers—including those who, judging from the shouts of “Fore!” resounding across fairways, may have taken up the game as a pandemic pursuit—Peggy O’Neill Jones went on a personal journey to rediscover one of America’s early golf champions.

Taking You Out to the Ball Game: When the All-Star Game made a quick shift to Denver this summer, we seized the opportunity to focus on one of our favorite subjects: baseball. We explored what made Mickey Masterpiece—the perfect-ten 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card on display in an exhibition organized by History Colorado at McGregor Square for All-Star weekend—the most sought-after baseball card in the world. And we revisited the story of The Denver Post Baseball Tournament and the important role it played in integrating America’s Game

Heading for the Mountains: As this year’s long summer stretched on, Kayann Short introduced us to a group of intrepid women who called themselves the Blue Birds and documented their role—and the fun they had—in shaping Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy in its early days. 

Immigration in Colorado

As immigration continues to play a prominent role in the national political conversation, we explored its history through a Colorado lens. 

Separating Myth From Reality: William Wei concluded his sweeping two-part history of immigration in Colorado. In detailed treatments that focus first on immigration to Colorado before World War II and second on post-war immigration up to the present, Wei rigorously separated myth from reality. 

Sharing Personal Stories: Two essays in our “disCOurse” series told more personal stories of immigration. Courtney Ozaki shared her Japanese family’s journey to Denver’s historically Black Five Points neighborhood, where they discovered a love for tortillas. Nga Vu’o’ng-Sandoval reflected on her path to Colorado as a Vietnamese refugee and the personal treasures she discovered along the way. 

Spotlighting the Volga Germans: Alexandria Joyner took a closer look at the Volga Germans who came to work in Colorado’s sugar beet fields, offering a case study in how one group experienced the immigration system Wei described

Photo at top: Portrait of Nga Vu'o'ng-Sandoval in Denver by Thomas "Detour" Evans. Photograph by Jason L. Hanson.