An escaped slave who became a prominent entrepreneur and civil rights leader in Colorado, Barney Ford's story and life's work inspired the 1981 creation of a stained glass window in his honor in the legislative chambers of the state Capitol building in Denver.
Born into slavery in 1822, Ford learned to read at his mother's hand, inspiring a lifelong quest for education. He escaped on the Underground Railroad and moved north before settling in Breckenridge, where he became Colorado's first black businessman, opening Ford's Restaurant and Chophouse. In 1882, craftsman Elias Nashold built a Victorian-style house for Ford and his family. Later in life, Ford became involved in politics and the fight for the rights of African Americans in Colorado.
Last summer, while touring the Barney Ford House Museum with his wife, lobbyist Jerry Johnson learned that the museum had no representation of the stained glass window, so he enlisted the help of a client, the American Institute of Architects, Colorado Component (AIA Colorado).
AIA Colorado commissioned a 16-inch x 32-inch replica - consisting of a high-resolution color photo on clear acetate sandwiched between two pieces of glass and framed in cherry - to fill the void. Denver Architect Jered Minter of AIA masterminded the project.
At 2 p.m. today, state Rep. Millie Hamner, who looks upon the window from her desk at the House of Representatives every day, will present the replica to the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and Barney Ford House Museum, 111 E. Washington Ave. A reception follows and the event is free of charge.
"Well before African Americans had equal rights, Barney Ford fought for his freedom, riding the ups and downs of the mining booms in the West, building a name for himself as a prominent businessman (after being run off his mining claims) and ultimately leading the black suffrage movement in Colorado and developing adult education programs for African Americans," said Larissa O'Neil, executive director of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.
"He fought through segregation, hostility, financial volatility and hardships during the mining era to become one of Colorado's great African American leaders," she said. Now, efforts to memorialize his contribution at the state level will be preserved in Breckenridge with this important new addition to the museum's collection.