The black population in Omaha more than doubled between 1910 and 1920, from 4,426 to 10,317, or 5 percent of the city. Omaha had the second largest black population west of the Mississippi River, behind Los Angeles. Most of the new black citizens settled in north Omaha.

» African-American music, particularly big bands and jazz, thrived in the early 1900s. Dan Desdunes moved to Omaha in 1904 and worked as a janitor until he formed the Desdunes Band in 1908. The band became one of the most popular parade bands in Omaha.

» The Omaha branch of the NAACP formed in 1914. It was started by the Rev. John Albert Williams, who led St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church.

» Noble and George Johnson founded the Lincoln Motion Picture Company in 1915. The brothers’ first film, “The Realization of a Negro’s Ambition,” was made in 1916 and told the story of a man who had recently graduated from the Tuskegee Institute and headed west to the oil fields.

» Preston Love Sr., the Omaha-based jazz musician, was born in 1921. He would play with jazz greats including the Count Basie Orchestra, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne.

» Myers Funeral Home opened in 1921 and was the longest-running black-owned business in Omaha when it closed in 2011. By 1925, there were 125 black-owned businesses in the city.

» Salem Baptist Church, one of the largest black congregations in Nebraska, was founded in 1922 near 26th and Franklin Streets. The church is now at 3131 Lake St.

» In 1923, the Dreamland Ballroom opened on north 24th Street. It would feature many prominent big band, jazz, blues and R&B artists — including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Muddy Waters — until it closed in 1965.

» Earl Little, the father of Malcolm X, worked as a black nationalist organizer for Marcus Garvey in Omaha in the mid-20s. Malcolm was born in 1925. The family would move in 1926 after a series of threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

Source: “In Their Own Words: Artifacts from the Great Plains Black History Museum” by Patrick D. Jones and Jared Leighton, PBS

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