Feb. 15: WSU Tri-Cities celebrates Black History Month with a new monument dedicated to the first-black pioneers in Washington territory

Feb. 15: WSU Tri-Cities celebrates Black History Month with a new monument dedicated to the first-black pioneers in Washington territory

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will celebrate Black History Month with the dedication of a new monument at 11 a.m. Feb. 15 on campus. The monument will commemorate George Bush, the first Black pioneer in Washington Territory, and his son William Owen Bush, who served in the first Washington State legislature.

The granite and bronze monument is a replica of the monument recently installed on Washington’s capital campus in Olympia and will be accompanied by an original homestead Bush butternut tree seedling that will be planted next fall.

The dedication will feature remarks from WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes, African American Community Cultural and Educational Society representatives Vanessa and Leonard Moore, and Black Student Union leadership. The event will be facilitated by Kauser Gwaduri, MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion coordinator.

The dedication will be held outdoors and is free and open to the public. COVID-19 guidelines and requirements will apply.

George Bush and family – Washington state pioneers 

In 1844, George Bush and his wife Isabella began their journey from Missouri to Oregon across the Oregon Trail in hopes of escaping prejudice and discrimination. When the wagon train arrived in the Oregon Territory, they found a hostile environment for freed slaves and Black pioneers attempting to settle in the area. The party decided it would not settle in a place where Bush and his family weren’t welcome, so they traveled north of the Columbia River hoping to move beyond the reach of the area’s racist laws.

In 1845, Bush and his family established a prosperous farm in the area that is now Tumwater, Wash. It was the first non-Indigenous American settlement in the region.

In 1889, George’s oldest son William Owen Bush served in the Washington State Legislature. The Washington State Historical Society says William Owen Bush played a role in founding the college that later became Washington State University.

Funded by state and local advocacy 

In January 2021, WSU Tri-Cities was contacted by the Moores regarding the opportunity to install a replica of the Bush family monument on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. A tribute made possible by the Washington State Historical Society.

“The Washington State Historical Society is honored to be part of this project and grateful to the legislature for allocating funds to celebrate Black history in our state,” said Jennifer Kilmer, director of the Washington State Historical Society. “We thank the advisory committee for working with us to define and advance this project.”

Vanessa Moore, a WSU Tri-Cities alumna said, “The installation of the Bush Monument on the WSU Tri-Cities campus is important to AACCES because it aligns with the organization’s mission to increase awareness of African American contributions to and participation in our community.”

“It’s a beautiful piece of history, a story we get to tell as a result of our relationship with Vanessa and Leonard Moore, ACCEES and our friends at the Washington State Historical Society,” said Haynes. “As the most diverse campus in the WSU system, the monument mirrors the many diverse communities we serve and showcases the Bush family’s enduring legacy at WSU.”


Media contact:

Brenda Alling, Interim Director Marketing and Communication, 360-546-9601, brenda_alling@wsu.edu