Past (1895-1999)

The 19th century was a time of much migration towards the West, either by forced relocation or the hope of “greener pastures.” This massive movement of people to the West brought a generalized effort on the part of the US government in establishing a foothold. With much of the western lands having been bought by the United States under the Louisiana Purchase of 18031 and the territorial acquisitions made as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo following the Mexican-American War,2 the US government sought to exploit their new territory. As such, the movements of people began, but in these early years of settlement, most of these peoples moving west were those who had been forced from their homes. One such notable forced relocation was that of Native American tribes (along with the forcible expansion of slavery westward under the international slave trade), which had called the southern and southeastern United States their ancestral homes under the Indian Removal Act of 1830; the removal of these tribes was later referred to as the Trail of Tears.3

Though the tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole) relocated only as far as Oklahoma, they were some of the first peoples to move into the newly acquired territories. The next movement of people in 1848 had begun settling the West because of the California Gold Rush.4 This was before the Compromise of 1850, which had granted California statehood (in 1850) and established the territories of Oregon and Utah. The major motions of colonization, however, would not occur until the passing of the Homestead Act in 18625 and the end of the Civil War in 1865. Many settlers found themselves moving west, including a large number of Black settlers establishing large communities in areas like Kansas, with as many as 27,000 settling the area between 1869 and 1879.6

The settling of Idaho also began at this time, with the first permanent settlements established in the early 1860s for the purposes of mining silver and gold.7 With these mining communities also came the army, which established several forts and found itself in constant conflict with the tribes in the area. This eventually led to the Nez Perce War of 1877, which saw the native Nez Perce Tribe removed from their lands that would eventually serve as the grounds for the establishment of the town of Moscow.

Settled in 1871, before the removal of the Nez Perce Tribe, the community of Moscow grew after the Nez Perce War of 1877, eventually establishing itself as an independent town in 1885.8 This was shortly followed by the town being chosen as the site for a new land-grant institution, the University of Idaho, in 1889. Just a year later, in 1890, the town of Moscow would find itself part of the new state of Idaho.9 The introduction of the University of Idaho in Moscow, and its newfound position in a state (rather than a territory), aided in attracting more people to the town.

The Black/African-American community at the University of Idaho has had a storied history in the area. Starting from its founding, the school has had a continuous Black student population that has collectively made an impact on the University. Since the 1960s, the Black student population has pushed for their own organizations to fuel inclusivity at the University, they have pushed for new classes to discuss Black history, and they have pushed to have a stronger voice on campus. The effort from Black students at the University of Idaho mirrors similar movements for recognition from other universities across the United States and exemplifies a desire for inclusivity and the breaking down of tone-deaf university culture that has blocked Black students and faculty from excelling in their fields. This push has changed the culture of universities in the United States and has certainly made higher education an easier field to navigate for Black students and faculty, though many issues still persist.


  1. “The Louisiana Purchase,” Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,

  2. “The Mexican-American War,” Northern Illinois University Digital Library,

  3. “Multi-State: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail,” National Park Service,,Southeast%20in%20the%20early%201800s.

  4. “Gold Rush Overview,” California Department of Parks and Recreation,

  5. “The Homestead Act, May 20, 1862,” National Archives: The Center for Legislative Archives,

  6. Anna Khomina, “The Homestead Act of 1862: Dreams and Realities,” U.S. History Scene,

  7. “Early Settlement of Idaho,” Access Genealogy,

  8. Monroe Julie, Moscow: Living and Learning on the Palouse (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 69. 

  9. “Idaho History: 1850-1899,” Digital Atlas,


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The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.