Manhattan Project National Historical Park Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

African American historic photoRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities was recently awarded a $73,000 grant in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service to research and document the African American migration, segregation and overall civil rights history at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Hanford.

Michael Mays, WSU Tri-Cities director of the Hanford History Project, said the African American story and perspective remains largely undocumented and untold at the Hanford nuclear site, which is one of three locations of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The other locations of the national park include Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Mays said Hanford in the 1940s, like much of the rest of the country, was an extremely segregated place.“The history of the science of the Manhattan Project is well known, but the social history, especially with regard to questions of race, class and gender, is much less clearly understood,” he said. “We want to look at and document the settlement and demographic patterns of African Americans who were recruited to work at Hanford, and then track when and where they migrated to once their employment ended.”

“This is an important story to tell and an important part of our history that needs to be made known,” he said.

The plan for the project, Mays said, is to examine existing documentation, conduct new research and interview African American community members throughout the Pacific Northwest in order to better understand the African American experience at Hanford.

“The Hanford area went from a handful of small farming communities comprising a few hundred residents in the early 1940s to a peak population of nearly 50,000 at Camp Hanford in the course of 15 months,” he said. “There are many stories of the African American experience at the Manhattan Project, and we want to be able to share those stories from these individuals’ perspectives.”

The completed interviews will be included with the WSU Tri-Cities oral history collection of the Hanford Site, as well as displayed and made available through the National Park Service and at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Hanford.

Mays said they are looking for African American individuals or their family members who had a role in the Manhattan Project at Hanford and with the site before, during and after the Cold War, or who were related to the site in any way during those times. Those who are interested should contact Jillian Gardner-Andrews at 509-372-7447 or j.gardner-andrews@wsu.edu.

“We are actively trying to identify people who experienced this remarkable history, either first- or second-hand,” he said. “We would love to hear from these individuals and document their stories.”

Mays said the project will be completed over the course of two years. Interviewees will be identified and scheduled by the end of the year, with interviews wrapped up by the end of spring. He and his team will then perform a review of documents and literature available on the subject and write up and publish their findings by the end of their second year.

 

Media Contacts:

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities will host a conference detailing the global impact of the Manhattan Project over the last 75 years March 15-18 at the Red Lion Hanford House in Richland.

The conference, titled “Legacies of the Manhattan Project: Reflections on 75 Years of a Nuclear World,” will welcome a range of guest speakers from across the country, including individuals from the National Park Service, historians and community activists from each of the three Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites (Hanford, Wash., Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge, Tenn.), as well as historians, scientists, engineers and other experts who have been instrumental to the site’s study, production efforts, clean-up and nuclear research.

Many events are free and open to the public. For more information, including the full conference schedule, or to register, contact Jillian at 509-372-7447 or visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/hanfordhistory.

“After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world would never be, could never be, the same again,”said Michael Mays, WSU Tri-Cities Hanford History Project director. “Yet only now, nearly 75 years later, are we really beginning to understand the cataclysmic impacts of that seminal event.”

“With the ongoing declassification of governmental records, increased access to historical archives, and the recent creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, it is an opportune time for a historical reconsideration of the key roles, decisions, outcomes and effects of this critical moment in history,” he said.

Some major themes of the conference include:

  • Environmental legacies of nuclear materials production
  • The politics of science, national security and the state
  • Atomic diplomacy and the Cold War
  • The Manhattan Project National Historical Park: Memory, commemoration and the challenges of public history
  • The Manhattan Project in popular culture
  • Diversity and difference: The contested spaces of the Manhattan Project and Cold War

Keynote speakers for the conference include author and filmmaker Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, Command and Control); Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate and one-time Hanford engineer; and Una Gilmartin, structural engineer and historical preservationist whose projects include the restoration of the Washington Monument and Hanford’s White Bluffs Bank.

In addition to panel presentations, keynote addresses and a Saturday evening screening of Schlosser’s documentary film “Command and Control” at the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, the conference will also offer tours of the Hanford site and of the Hanford History Project repository — home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Hanford Collection,” which includes primary documents, photos, films and digital materials.