Meet Zach Van Harris Jr., the South Dakota Historian Unearthing the State’s African American History


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by Jonathan Kelley and Lydia Moran, ArtsMidwest

Zach Van Harris
Zach Van Harris works to reveal lost American history (Jonathan Kelley)

Zach Van Harris Jr. is a fountain of names. They come running out of him in a steady current. 

There’s Oscar Micheaux, the versatile, resilient filmmaker whose early 20th century films countered prevailing narratives about Black life. There’s York, an enslaved man who joined Lewis and Clark on their expedition and helped build relationships with Tribal Nations. There’s Lucretia Marchbanks, a widely beloved and revered business owner who was one of the first African American women to come to South Dakota. 


“These are stories we’re going to leave out of South Dakota history? Not on my watch,” Van Harris said.

Harris is the chief researcher and curator at the South Dakota African American History Museum, located on the first floor of the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls. 

Learn more about Zach and his work.

ABHM’s online exhibits unearth more black history.

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