Category Archives: African American History

A Report From The Sojourner Truth Statue Unveiling


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HandonStatue5The unveiling of the Sojourner Truth statue in the town of Esopus, NY where the abolitionist  preacher was held a slave as a child, was a remarkable experience. I’ve lived in the Hudson Valley County of Ulster all my life and have never witnessed the “owning” of the shameful past of slavery before.  Truth’s statue in the Esopus hamlet of Port Ewen represents the only statue in the world of a child slave at work, according to Ulster County Historian Anne Gordon. Continue reading

Harriet Tubman Symposium Planned in Auburn


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Harriet Tubman SymposiumOn November 8 and 9, 2013, Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY will host “Harriet Tubman: No Longer Underground,” a two-day symposium marking the centennial of the death of Harriet Tubman in 1913.

Co-Sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Boosters Club, the Seward House Museum, and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the symposium will celebrate the life and work of the heroic African American woman who escaped slavery, conducted other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, served the Union Army during the Civil War, and worked as a humanitarian and advocate for women’s rights throughout the 50 years she lived in Auburn. Continue reading

Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties Exhibit Planned


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488Activism and artistic practice intersect in Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, a presentation of 103 works by 66 artists that is among the few exhibitions to explore how painting, sculpture, graphics, and photography not only responded to the political and social turmoil of the era but also helped to influence its direction.

Debuting at the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be on view from March 7 through July 6, 2014, the touring exhibition marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the events leading to this historic moment, and the aftermath of the legislation. Continue reading

Statue of Sojourner Truth Being Installed in Ulster County


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Sojourner_truth_c1870A newly minted bronze statue of celebrated abolitionist and human rights advocate Sojourner Truth as a child slave at work will be installed in Port Ewen, in the Town of Esopus, Ulster County on September 21.  The statue and an interpretive sign will be installed on a plaza on the corner of 9W and Salem Street.

Sojourner Truth was born in into slavery in Swartekill, just north of present-day Rifton in Esopus. Her parents had been enslaved in Africa and purchased by Col. Johannes Hardenbergh. She was born as Isabella Baumfree in about 1797, and lived the first 30 years of her life in Ulster County, taking the name Sojourner Truth in the 1840s. She is best known today for her speech “Ain’t I A Woman?’, which she delivered off-hand at the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. She died in Michigan in 1883. Continue reading

Twelve Years A Slave:
North Country Native Solomon Northup


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northup45aMinerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.

Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading

Montgomery County:
African Americans and Abolition Walking Tour


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CanajoharieMontgomery 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.
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James Doolittle: Washington County Abolitionist


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James_rood_doolittle WIKISlavery 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

Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom


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Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a SlaveThe 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

The Troy Draft Riot and Father Peter Havermans


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havermanWhen 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

Events Will Mark 1964 Civil Rights Act 50th Anniversary


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800px-Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_July_2,_1964Women’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

Westchester Co. African-American ‘Hills’ Community Hike


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Westchester County African American Hills CommunityOn 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

Washington County’s Mysterious Black Migration


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9781479771912_p0_v1_s260x420New 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

Abolitionist History Season Getting An Early Start


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John Brown DayThe 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

Westchester: The Prophet Matthias and Elijah the Tishbite


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MatthiasLong 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

Schenectady Baseball History: The Mohawk Giants


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MohawkGiantsTalk-007When 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.
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Peterboro Opens Heritage Season with Annual Party


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Gerrit SmithStewards 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

Elijah Hunter: Revolutionary War Spy


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first baptist church ossiningSpying 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

Black History Progams at Adirondack Prison


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In the 1850's, black families came to the Adirondacks to farm.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

Preservation Fight At Manhattan Underground RR Site


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Abigail Hopper GibbonsManhattanites 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.
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