‘Atomic Frontier’ Exhibit at NW African American Museum Offers Insight

Photography exhibit chronicles the lives of black workers who helped build atomic bombs

By Jennifer Meyers


October 30, 2015

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Seattle Magazine.

In 1943, humble farmers were forced to evacuate their homes in eastern Washington’s Hanford–Pasco–White Bluffs region to make way for a secret military project base that would later bring devastation to Japan during World War II. Roughly 40,000 workers were recruited by the DuPont Corporation and traveled miles to participate in the Manhattan Project—of those, 6,000 were African American.

Photography exhibition The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford at the Northwest African American Museum chronicles the lives of black workers who participated unknowingly in the extraction of plutonium to build atomic bombs during World War II. While they were constructing “Fat Man”—the second atomic bomb, which was dropped on Nagasaki—the workers faced other challenges, such as racial segregation in housing, mess halls, social events and certain neighborhoods.

Workers were also exposed to radiation, but the importance of maintaining secrecy for the project overruled controlling the health risks—the military worried such measures would blow its cover. In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, The Atomic Frontier…offers insight into the lives of these workers through powerful imagery collected from the United States War Department. 10/31–3/6/2016. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. $7 adults, $5 students and seniors, free to children younger than 5.

Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S Massachusetts St.; 206.518.6000; naamnw.org 


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