African Americans in Omaha, Nebraska are central to the development and growth of the 43rd largest city in the United States. The first free black settler in the city arrived in 1854, the year the city was incorporated. In 1894 black residents of Omaha organized the first fair in the United States for African-American exhibitors and attendees. The 2000 US Census recorded 51,910 African Americans as living in Omaha (over 13% of the citys population). In the 19th century, the growing city of Omaha attracted ambitious people making new lives, such as Dr. Matthew Ricketts was the first African American to graduate from a Nebraska college or university, and Silas Robbins was the first African American to be admitted to the bar in Nebraska. In 1892 Dr. Ricketts was also the first African American to be elected to the Nebraska State Legislature. Ernie Chambers, an African-American barber from North Omahas 11th District, became the longest serving state senator in Nebraska history in 2005 after serving in the unicameral for more than 35 years.
Because of its industrial jobs with the railroads and meatpacking industries, Omaha was the city on the Plains that attracted the most African-American migrants from the South in the Great Migration of the early 20th century. By 1910 it had the third largest black population among western cities after Los Angeles and Denver. From 1910 to 1920, the African-American population in Omaha doubled to more than 10,000, as new migrants were attracted by jobs in the expanding meatpacking industry. More than 70 percent were from the South. Of western cities, in 1920 only Los Angeles had a greater population of blacks than Omaha, with nearly 16,000. Reflecting the concentration of people and vital community, in 1915 the Lincoln Motion Picture Company was founded in Omaha. It was the first film company owned by African Americans. Like several other major industrial cities during the Red Summer of 1919, Omaha suffered a race riot. It was marked by