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Bray, Keve (1925--1972)

Seattle businessman and political activist Keve Bray played an essential role in the local civil rights movement and is especially notable for his role in the black power movement in the Central District.  Bray was born on June 9, 1925.  Very little is known about his childhood background.  By the 1960s Bray emerged as an early opponent of integration as the best means to advance equality for African Americans in Seattle.  As early as 1964, he spoke out against the integrationist rhetoric of many civil rights leaders.  This political dissent foreshadowed the emergence of black power ideologies in Seattle later in the 1960s.

By 1968, Bray had become a leader of the “black nationalist” faction of the African American community in Seattle.  He and his followers asserted their dissatisfaction of the direction of the civil rights movement, under the leadership of the Central Area Civil Rights Committee, at a particularly heated community meeting in March 1968.  From that point on, many young black Seattleites openly supported the black power rhetoric of Keve Bray, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, and other leaders of the Black Nationalist movement.  

Bray was very active in community organizations and carried a strong voice in Seattle.  He co-founded the Negro Voters League in 1966 and was a member of the United Black Front (UBF).  In 1969 he joined other UBF members and eight Seattle Black Panthers in presenting a list of Central District grievances to the Washington State Senate Ways and Means Committee.  Bray was also a frequent contributor to the Afro American Journal, a short-lived publication in Seattle that openly supported the black power movement.

In addition to his involvement in political activism, Keve Bray was a major supporter of African American arts and culture in Seattle.  Bray headed the Black Cultural Center, a center that promoted black community education and served as a place for young African Americans to display arts and crafts. The Center also housed the Banneker School, an alternative private school for African American youth in the Central District. 

In 1972 Bray moved to Denver, Colorado after becoming a Black Muslim.  He changed his name to Keve X and was assigned by Nation of Islam, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, to reorganize the Denver Mosque.  Bray was assassinated in the doorway of his Denver home on November 17, 1972, allegedly by Denver members of the Nation of Islam.

Sources:
Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Doug Blairm, “Black Power and Education” in the Afro American Journal, 1968-1969; Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/news_blair.htm .

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University of Washington

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