This fall, noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in his new six-part series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross premiering Tuesdays, October 22, 29 – November 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2013, 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Continue reading
Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar will lead a walking tour in the Village of Canajoharie on Saturday, August 10th at 11am. The tour will highlight various sites associated with the African Americans who lived in Canajoharie during the 19th century as well as potential abolitionist activity.
Brochures will identify the sites on a map of the Village of Canajoharie and the walking tour will include a portion of the sites. The tour will meet at the NBT Bank parking lot on the corner of Route 10 and Mohawk Street (site of Hotel Wagner and the former drive-thru bank) at 11am. There will some hills involved in the walking tour and it is expected to last approximately 1 hour.
Slavery nearly destroyed this country. We now mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which many consider to have been a battle over slavery. But in the big picture, the battle over slavery has been ongoing since this nation was formed. In our infancy, it was outlawed in some states but not in others. With great gall and to our utter embarrassment, we called ourselves the Land of the Free. In fact, when Francis Scott Key wrote those words in 1814, about half of the states allowed slavery.
There were still plenty of lynchings 150 years later when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. That time is now 50 years past, yet there’s still plenty of bigotry and racism to go around. Judging by where we stand today, it’s shameful to suggest that we’ve come far. More than two centuries, and this is the best we can do? Continue reading
The 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.
Northup was born a free man in Minerva, Essex County, NY, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading
When what has been described as “the second most destructive draft riot in the nation” broke out in Troy on July 15, 1863, worried city residents, especially African-Americans, wondered if the Dean of the Roman Catholic churches in Troy, Father Peter Havermans, would, or could, do anything to calm the rioters and curb anticipated violence.
The bulk of the two to three thousand angry protestors in the streets were Catholics who worked in the city’s mills, factories and iron works. Continue reading
Women’s Rights National Historical Park will offer a special program and kick-off event “1964 Civil Rights Act Revisited” with park ranger Jamie Wolfe and volunteer Harlene Gilbert on June 22 at 11:00 AM in the Wesleyan Chapel.
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Women’s Rights National Historical Park will sponsor a year-long series of programs titled “Keep the Dream Alive” Events. The kick-off program will correspond with the introduction of the most prominent civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. Continue reading
On June 2, a unique history-hike will take participants into the “Hills” community, the largest, African-American community in Westchester County in 1860.
The land on which the Hills community farmed and lived is now part of Silver Lake Preserve, still very rugged territory, and will be the destination of a guided historic hike.
Naturalist Zaac Chaves will lead the hike and discuss changes to the environment and evidence of the “Hills” community on the land, while Edythe Ann Quinn, Ph.D., Professor of History at Hartwick College will provide history of the African-American community, focusing on the 1860s. Continue reading
New York author L. Lloyd Stewart has recently published an extensively researched and documented book on African American history in New York State titled, The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vrankens and Other Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.
The author will be at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) during May’s Troy Night Out, on May 31, 2013. Stewart will give a presentation at 6:30 pm and will be available to sign copies of his book afterward. Continue reading
The Abolitionist History season is starting early this year.
First, the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausabale Chasm opens Saturday, May 4, nearly a month earlier than usual, and sponsors its first tour of Underground Railroad sites in local towns. With the weather as warm as it is, and demand growing in each of the museum’s first two years, the early opening made sense.
Second, just one week later, John Brown Lives! celebrates John Brown Day on May 11 with a special appearance by activist and one-time Presidental candidate Dick Gregory. He’ll be the keynote speaker at 2 p.m. at the John Brown State Historic Site, followed by Kate C. Larson, biographer of the legendary underground conductor Harriet Tubman. Continue reading
Long before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.
The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading
When you discuss Negro baseball, most people think of names like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell. These were some of the biggest stars in the professional Negro leagues. However, this was not the only place where you could see Negro teams play. Throughout the country there were independent teams, like the Mohawk Colored Giants.
The Giants got their start in 1913 under the organization of Bill Wernecke. Although this was seasonal work for these ball players, they were full time paid players. By offering full time jobs, Wernecke was able to lure players into Schenectady from all over the country. The Giants would play their home games at the nicest ball field in Schenectady, Island Park.
Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) in Peterboro will announce plans for the 2013 Peterboro Heritage events at the annual Gerrit Smith birthday party on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.
The doors will open at 1:00 pm for the Stewart organizational meeting, program announcements, and overview of site hosting schedule needs and responsibilities – in-depth training to be held before we open for 2013 Heritage Season. At 2:00 p.m. Norman K. Dann PhD, professor emeritus Morrisville State College and Smith biographer will present on Gerrit Smith and Smithfield in 1863. Dann’s program will be followed by birthday refreshments. The program is open for the public with a three dollar admission for adults, and free for students and 2012 GSENHL Stewards. Continue reading
Spying was a major component of the strategy and the tactics of the American Revolution. However it’s only recently that historians have focused on the intrigues, subterfuges and skullduggery that were used by all sides. Except for the spying of British Major John Andre, his collaboration with Benedict Arnold, and of the failed spying of Nathan Hale, undercover intelligence gathering operations during the Revolution is a mostly forgotten aspect of that conflict.
Nonetheless, spying was quite common in that era and George Washington was its chief proponent. Washington made full use of the 1700s tools of the spy trade including invisible ink, hiding messages in feather quills, and small silver balls for hiding messages that could be swallowed in the event of capture. He also encouraged forging documents and making sure they fell into British hands. Continue reading
The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.
“Dreaming of Timbuctoo,” the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Continue reading
Manhattanites are agitating on behalf of the home of one of the city’s leading 19th Century agitators–Abigail Hopper Gibbons. She and her husband James S. Gibbons ran a strongly documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan, at what is now 339 West 29th St., near 8th Avenue.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Bureau of Standards and Appeals, over a developer’s decision to add fifth floor to the four-story building, in violation of historic preservation rules.
February is Black History Month and New York State offers a special window into African American history and American culture as it was a center for 19th century anti-slavery organizations, and home to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and many other Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leaders. In the 20th century the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) has its roots in the Niagara Movement, whose first meeting in 1905 took place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls because members were turned away from hotels on the U.S. side. Continue reading
“On August 16, 1781, Murphy Stiel, a sergeant in the Black Pioneers, a British paramilitary group based in New York City, had a remarkable dream. Stiel was sleeping in the Pioneers’ barracks on Water Street when he heard “a Voice like a Man’s but saw no body.”
The voice commanded Stiel to deliver a message to Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief of the British forces, that he should order General George Washington to surrender “himself and his Troops to the Kings Army.” Failure to do so would mean God’s wrath would fall upon the Americans. Stiel warned that all the “Blacks in America would rise up against Washington’s forces….For…the Lord would be on their side.” Continue reading
In 1846, New York voters rejected equal voting rights for black males by a wide margin — 71% to 29%.
This rejection helped persuade Gerrit Smith to start his Timbuctoo colony in the Adirondacks. His idea was to get free blacks land enough to meet the $250 property requirement. (All property requirements were abolished for white males.)
Meanwhile, voters in some parts of New York did support equal voting rights, and voted to end the property requirement that kept more than 90% of free black men from voting.
The North Country showed the strongest support. Continue reading
The 2013 Underground Railroad Public History Conference in the Capital District this year is marking three major milestones: the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, the death of Harriet Tubman 100 years ago, and the civil rights March on Washington 50 years ago.
The annual conference is the major Underground Railroad gathering each year in New York State. It will hold sessions in Albany and Troy, starting Friday, April 12, and finishing on Sunday, April 14. Continue reading