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JUSTINA FORD HOUSE-3091 California Street

Black American West Museum and Heritage Center, Denver, Colorado

Paul Wilbur Stewart (December 18, 1925 – November 12, 2015) was an American historian, best known for founding Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in 1971.


Stewart was born in Clinton, Iowa to Eugene Joseph Stewart and Martha L. Stewart (née Moor). He served in the US Navy upon graduating high school, and later settled in Evanston, Illinois with his brother. Stewart worked at the local post office while attending Roosevelt University. However, he dropped out to help his brother with tuition. Stewart subsequently earned a license from Moler Barber College and worked as a barber in Illinois, Wisconsin and New York.[1] He moved to Denver in 1962, and opened another barber shop. With the help of his customers, Stewart began collecting Old West memorabilia shortly afterward. As the collection grew, it was moved multiple times.[2][3] The museum was officially established as the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in 1971 and located at 221 24th Street, where it spent one year before moving to the intersection of East Colfax Avenue and Detroit Street. Stewart next moved his collection to the Clayton School for Boys in 1975. It was moved to the Five Points neighborhood in 1985, to a space on 26th and Welton Streets. The museum bought and moved into its permanent home, the Justina Ford residence on California Street and 30th Avenue, in 1988.[4] The museum, billed as "the only Western-black-history museum in the world,"[2] highlights the history of African American's movement west and includes artifacts and pictorial histories of cowboys, farmers, ranchers, miners, Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen and the residents of the Five Points area. An exhibit dedicated to Ford remains on display in a room of the house.[5]

Stewart was of African American and Cherokee descent, and a cousin of Earl Mann,[2] who served in the Colorado House of Representatives.[6] He was married to Johnnie Mae Davis from 1986[7] to his 2015 death in Aurora, Colorado.[8][9]


  1. "Paul Stewart Interview". The HistoryMakers. November 6, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wenzel, John (December 13, 2014). "Museum founder celebrates blacks in the West, Colorado celebrates him". Denver Post. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  3. Bowman, Jon (February 8, 2013). "Black western pioneer celebrates Black History Month". KDVR. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  4. Witcher, T.R. (January 29, 1998). "Paul Stewart". Westword. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  5. Lee, Gary (June 24, 2007). "In Denver, Black Cowboys Get Their Due". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007.,590644&hl=en. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  6. Mars, Shaun Michael. "Mann, Earl (1886-1969)". Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  7. Golus, Carrie (2005). "Stewart, Paul Wilbur". Thomsen Gale. 
  8. Wenzel, John (November 12, 2015). "Paul Stewart, founder of Black American West Museum, dies at 89". Denver Post. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  9. Bowman, Jon (November 13, 2015). "Pioneer Paul Stewart, Black American West Museum founder, dies at 89". KDVR. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 

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