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#TBT - Over 50 years ago the Central District lead Seattle's war on poverty, the battle continues.

Commanding the War on Poverty: Central Area Motivation Program from the Beginning

The #TBT series is a collaboration between the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and Africatown Seattle to give historical insights and perspectives into Black history and Black contributions in the Seattle area and Washington State as a whole.

By Stephanie Johnson-Toliver

Today, we know the 1909 converted Firehouse #23 at 18th Ave between E Jefferson and E Columbia Streets as the 2nd home to the Central Area Motivation Program, renamed Byrd Barr Place in 2018. The site is a designated Seattle landmark and sits on the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about the firehouse history here. From firehouse to delivering community-based programs, the essence of this place has always been about serving the people.

Organizing for Community Well-being

In the early to mid-1960s Black communities in urban cities across the US were organizing heavily in response to lack of human services, equal justice under the law, and brutalities that were building beginning with the modern civil rights movement of the ‘50s. In 1964, three years after Dr. King visited Seattle, a group of locals formed the Central Area Community Council to form strategies and create action to tackle poverty and racism in Seattle’s Central Area. They developed a comprehensive anti-poverty proposal just ahead of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

In 1965, the project co-sponsored by the Central Area Community Council and the Seattle Urban League, received funding from the War on Poverty. The Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) became the first community inspired program in the country to receive funding and it is the oldest surviving independent agency originating from the War on Poverty era. The program was administered by the Central Area Citizens Committee (CACC) composed of members we should all remember.

CACC Members:

Rev. John Adams Laura Lambert

Ed Banks Rev. Gil Lloyd

Rev. Otis Brown Lewis Martin

Henry Caldwell Rev. Samuel McKinney

Lillian Gideon Eunice Palmer

Mrs. E. M. Hines Edwin Pratt

Edna Jones Carol Richman

Rex Jones

CAMP Firehouse Headquarters_1969_photo Mary Randlett, courtesy Douglas Q. Barnett

Trumpet_CAMP Newsletter_Front Page_July 1968 -image, original newsletter property of the Black Heritage Society of WA State, Inc.

Community outreach to gain first-hand input to how services would be prioritized and provided was solicited through neighborhood alliance groups and communication shared via the CAMP newsletter, the Trumpet.

CAMP_Cornerstone_Byrd Barr Place

CAMP flourished throughout the civil rights era administering over 25 pioneering community services. Over the years, CAMP leadership remained steadfast and concerned with delivering the human services and skills building opportunities that were its mission from the very beginning. Through some thin years as government programs were scrutinized, cut and even shut down, CAMP survived and has even expanded it services beyond the Central District to satellite locations in south, north and west Seattle.

Leadership throughout the years is testament to our community’s strength and belief that care, and well-being of our neighbors is what makes and keeps our community vital. Strategic planning over recent years has been concerned with relevant delivery of services and inclusive opportunities.

In 2012, CAMP changed its name to Centerstone with the idea that it best represented an all- encompassing expression of its history and service. By 2018, to further ground its history and identity, Centerstone was renamed Byrd Barr Place. The namesake, Roberta Byrd Barr was a strong and confident community activist, advocate, and educator who was at the forefront of community-based news as host of Face to Face on Ch 9. It is fitting that she be recognized and honored by an organization who delivers the service she was so passionate about. Not widely known, was her early involvement as advocate and actor at Black Arts West. CAMP was home to Black Arts West in 1968.

Roberta Byrd Barr_Memorial Program -Property of Black Heritage Society of WA State, Inc.

Byrd Barr Place

Walking the talk, still today, Byrd Barr Place is finding ways to advocate for and partner with community stakeholders at Africatown and others to support development for the Liberty Bank Building. Here is a link to know more about the history of CAMP and Byrd Barr Place.

Hayward Evans, a past executive director at Byrd Barr Place talks to the Shelf Life Project about the organization’s history and his experience. Listen here.

Current-day executive director, Andrea Caupin is the second female to lead the organization. In its 55 years of existence other executive directors with Walter Hundley being the first, include Larry Gossett, Roz Woodhouse, Eddie Rye, Leon Brown, Rick Dupree, Harold Whitehead, and Tony Orange.

Our Programs – Our Power

Our community strength and power begin at the grassroots. It is our community programs and organizations that sustain the vision to uphold our legacy, advocate for self-empowerment and actively encourage the amplification of our combined voices to express our needs and concerns around socio-economics of our community.


●Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Inc./BHS Collections

●Historylink, https://www.historylink.org

●Byrd Barr Place, https://wwwbyrdbarrplace.org


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