About the Museum

Origin of Black American West Museum and Heritage Center

The Museum began as the personal hobby of Paul W. Stewart, who as a child playing cowboys and Indians, always had to be the Indian because, "There is no such thing as a Black cowboy," he was told.

After Mr. Stewart reached adulthood, he met a Black cowboy and learned that one out of three cowboys in the building of the American West was Black.

So the story begins of on man's search and discovery of a past not recorded in history books. His search has taken him to nearly every corner of the West, gathering personal artifacts, memorabilia, newspapers, legal documents, clothing, letters, photographs, and oral histories. It was this original Paul Stewart Collection that formed the nucleus for Museum which formally began operation in 1971.

Justina L. Ford, M.D., "The Lady Doctor"

Settling in Denver in 1902 with a degree from Hering Medical College in Chicago, she was truly a medical pioneer. Courage and determination sheilded her from the discrimination that she would face even as she applied for her Colorado medical license. The licensing examiner told her, "I feel dishonest taking a fee from you. You've got two strikes against you to begin with. First of all, you're a lady, and second, you're colored."

Regardless of those obstacles, she established what was to become a long and notable practice in Denver, specializing in gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics. The "Lady Doctor", as she became familiarly and lovingly known, delivered more than 7,000 babies of varied ethnic backgrounds and from all walks of life. Dr. Ford was denied hospital privileges for a good number of years, thus her home delivery practice was essential. Against these odds, and faced with other barriers of race and gender, she persisted in her commitment to bring medical service to the disadvantaged and underprivileged of Denver. Dr. Ford was a true humanitarian.

Four months before her death, she is quoted as saying, "...When all the fears, hate, and even some death is over, we will really be brothers as God intended us to be in this land. This I believe. For this I have worked all my life.