Archives On The Air 171: The Struggles And Triumph Of Liz Byrd—Elizabeth "Liz" Byrd Family Papers

Mar 11, 2020

Liz Byrd was the first black woman to serve in the Wyoming State Legislature.

Growing up as an African American in Wyoming in the 1930s and 40s was not easy. In high school Byrd was denied service in a Cheyenne drugstore. Her white classmates threw the ice from their drinks over the counter and walked out.

Byrd applied to the University of Wyoming in 1944 but was told that she could not live in campus housing because she was black. She attended West Virginia State Teachers College, a historically black school instead.

Byrd was elected to the Wyoming State Legislature in 1980. She described an atmosphere in the statehouse that was hostile to women and in particular to a black woman. Only 14 of 90 seats in the legislature were held by women in 1980.

Learn more in the Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Family Papers at UW's American Heritage Center.