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Black Heritage Travel: Northeastern United States: New York
"Been There!" = Personal notes about places I've visited.

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New York

The Official New York State Tourism Website

In addition to providing everything you could possibly need to know about lodging, dining, shopping, and the great outdoors, it's easy to use the SEARCH function at this site to find events and attractions with an African American theme.

Auburn - Underground Railroad Auburn's Historic & Cultural Sites Commission

This site provides historical background and links to enhance your visit. You'll also find visitor information on lodging, dining and shopping, as well as events in the visual and performing arts.

Auburn - Harriet Tubman Home

The Harriet Tubman Home preserves the legacy of "The Moses of Her People" in the place where she lived and died in freedom. The site is located on 26 acres of land in Auburn, New York, and is owned and operated by the AME Zion Church. It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. This website provides historical background on Tubman and the home, tours and events, and visitor information.

Buffalo/Niagara Falls - African American Buffalo Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau

Learn about Buffalo's black history through landmarks and historic sites, or tap into the current culture (festivals, food, shopping, night scene and more.) There's also an African American Itinerary to help you plan your visit, along with everything you need to know about lodging, dining and more.

Buffalo/Niagara Falls - African American Cultural Center

In addition to offering instruction and training in African American history, African dance, drama, ceramics, reading/math, and drumming, the center houses the African World Studies Archives, the Paul Robeson Theatre and more. Check the website for events and classes.

Buffalo/Niagara Falls - Langston Hughes Institute Center for Cultural History and Arts Education

Since 1968, The Langston Hughes Institute Center for Cultural History and Arts Education has been a catalyst for the development, preservation and promotion of African American heritage in the City of Buffalo. It is both a gallery featuring Buffalo and regional African American artists, and a central gathering place for cultural and community events.

Buffalo/Niagara Falls - Motherland Connextions Tours

For more than 10 years, Motherland Connextion has offered Underground Railroad tours of the US and Southern Ontario.

Canastota - International Boxing Hall of Fame

Inductees include modern legendary athletes as Muhammad Ali and "Old Timers" such as Jack Johnson and George Dixon. You'll find biographical information and an archives online, along with visitor information for the surrounding area.

Been There! Cooperstown - National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

I confess...I'm not a baseball fan but as a historian I still enjoyed this museum tremendously, because it's so Americana. Though African Americans weren't permitted to play major league baseball until the middle of the 20th Century, they are well represented among the inductees, and an exhibit called Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience details the history of blacks in baseball from the 1800s to major league integration. Of course, if you really want to experience the Negro Leagues, you have to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. See South Central States: Missouri

Fishkill - Mt Gulian Historic Site

Mt Gulian was the home of James F. Brown, a freed slave who became a Master Gardener in the pre-Civil War era. Much of his life can be found in his 10-volume diary covering the years 1829 - 1866. For more see Freedom's Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America. Myra B. Young Armstead. New York University Press, 2012 Available at Amazon.com

Lake Placid - John Brown Farm State Historic Site

High in New York State's Adirondack Mountains is the home and grave of abolitionist John Brown. The farm has been owned by New York State since 1895, and is maintained by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Outdoor interpretive displays provide photographs and descriptions of the men involved in the raid on Harper's Ferry, and the house has been restored to circa 1859.

New Paltz - Historic Huguenot Street

Established in 1894, Historic Huguenot Street today includes forty-nine properties (museum houses, outbuildings and staff housing), eleven Family Associations, and over two thousand members. The have have considerable information about the history of slavery in New Paltz, and about the slaves owned by some of the founding Huguenot and later Dutch families in our town and the immediate area. Their collection provides a well-rounded glimpse into slavery in a small upstate New York village and into the lives of those who remained in the community after slavery was abolished. Highlights of this information can be found in an online exhibit The Missing Chapter: Untold Stories of the African American Presence in the Mid-Hudson Valley, hosted by Hudson River Valley Heritage.

Standard tours include some information related to slavery, but with advance notice, you can arrange a more detailed tour that focuses on the African American presence in the community and surrounding area. At the website you'll find visitor information, and also a wealth of historical information, exhibits and research.

New York City - New York Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Information for visitors, meeting planners, travel trade, journalists about dining, lodging, shopping, arts and entertainment. Their user-friendly SEARCH will help you quickly find African American businesses, events and heritage attractions.

NYC/Brooklyn - Brooklyn Museum

The museum features the long-term installation African Galleries with over 250works spanning more than 2500 years, in addition to related art in the second and third floor galleries. You'll find visitor information, past and present exhibits and more online.

NYC/Brooklyn - Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts

Brooklyn’s first museum devoted to utilizing the visual arts as a medium to address, discuss, debate and resolve contemporary social, political and economic issues affecting people of the African Diaspora. Learn more about their innovative exhibitions, public programs, community outreach initiatives and educational interactive tours at the website.

NYC/Brooklyn/Weeksville - Weeksville Heritage Center

The Hunterfly Road Houses are the last surviving residences of 19th century Weeksville, one of the nation's earliest free African American communities. Founded when James Weeks acquired property in 1838, by the 1860's, Weeksville had become an intellectual, cultural and economic center. A $3 million restoration was completed in 2005, and in 2007 ground was broken for a new education/cultural center. Check the website for events, tours, historical information and more. I particularly liked this statement: "The houses are symbols of what a community working together in the past created and what a community coming together today can achieve. The history made visible in the 1960s when Weeksville was rediscovered is now shared with everyone through tours of the historic houses (each of which showcases a particular era), lectures, preservation workshops, children’s programs, cultural events and other programs rooted in the Center's historic houses, singular research and unique collection of more than 200 objects."

NYC/Long Island/Hempstead - African American Museum

A centerpiece of African American history and culture on Long Island since 1970, this 6,000-square-foot museum, centrally located in Hempstead, offers a rotating series of exhibits showcasing local and national African-American artists. The museum also holds numerous community-based events, including celebrations of Black History Month and the lives of historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, along with educational programs. The Museum also houses the African Atlantic Genealogy Society, Inc., which provides workshops and individual research instruction into family genealogy, as well as the E-Learning Program, providing instruction for visitors of all ages in how to conduct research.

NYC/Manhattan - African Burial Ground

The African Burial Ground (approximately 7 acres in what is now the city's civic center) was used throughout the 18th Century and contains the remains of nearly 500 free and enslaved people. It was rediscovered in the early 1990's during pre-construction archaeological testing mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act. Eventually, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and construction was abandoned on the site. A memorial with interpretive center is in the process of being developed as further research continues. There is a wealth of information about the history and archeaology of the site online; you can also visit the interim Visitor Center located in the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway.

NYC/Manhattan - Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Multicultural Audience Development Initiative, begun in 1998, has grown into a Museum-wide effort. At the Met website, you'll find visitor information, current exhibition schedules, collaborations with other museums, and more. The best feature is Special Exhibitions, which allows you to view past and current exhibits online. For example, African American Artists 1929–1945: Prints, Drawings, and Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (an exhibit held in 2003)displays and interprets more than 70 works. Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary (on view through March 2, 2008) presents some of the most celebrated creations of African masters in a new light.

NYC/Manhattan - Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

"Founded in 1929 as an educational institution, The Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world." Find visitor information, explore current, past and upcoming exhibitions, events and educational programs. Use the SEARCH function to explore the works of African American artists in their collection...for example 31 paintings by Jacob Lawrence. Tip: Use quotes around the term "African American."

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Harlem Heritage Tourism and Cultural Center

Tour the historic streets of America's African-American capital, visit cultural institutions, enjoy jazz and gospel, dine on delicious soul food and shop at one of Harlem's many outlets. You can enjoy a general tour, or one that focuses on a theme such as the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights or "When Harlem was Jewish." A quick peek at their schedule shows something offered every day of the week. You can get more visitor information plus a wealth of Harlem historical information at the website.

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Abyssinian Baptist Church

The church community dates back to 1808 when a few African Americans withdrew from the segregated First Baptist Church of NYC and formed their own independent black church. Over the years it has been a base for many prominent black leaders, including Adam Clayton Powell Jr. The groundbreaking for the current ediface took place in 1922. You'll find a detailed history at their website. Visitors are welcome to attend services and events (check the calendar online.)

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Apollo Theater

Whether you're hoping to attend a live performance or take a historic tour...or perhaps even try your luck on Amateur Night...you'll find what you need to know at their website.

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (aka Caribbean Cultural Center)

You'll discover a wide range of programs here, from art exhibits to concerts, lectures, educational workshops and conferences. Find out about special events, or visit their online gallery.

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center (Under development)

The Shabazz Center is a living memorial that will present public programs and educational activities that encourage scholarship and creativity focused on the lives and interest of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. Core programs include a reading club, annual scholar's forum, youth summits and a film festival. Their first annual fund raiser was held in May 2007. (As of 1/24/08 both the website and the center are under development. The Center will be on the site of the former Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated. You can read more about the battle to preserve the historic site, and the evolution of the Center.)

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Museum of the City of New York

Ongoing and special exhibits trace African American heritage in New York. Use the SEARCH function to find basic information about current, past and future exhibits and events, such as Black Style Now and Harlem Is: Music.

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a national research library devoted to collecting preserving and providing access to resources documenting the history and experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. At their website you'll find a vast wealth of electronic resources including online exhibits and digital collections in addition to visitor information, events, educational programs and residencies for scholars of all ages.

NYC/Manhattan/Harlem - Studio Museum of Harlem

Major museum specializing in African American artists and artists of African descent. Learn about current, past and upcoming exhibitions, public programs, artist-in-residence, and even visit their museum store online.

NYC/Queens - Louis Armstrong House & Archives

In 1943, Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, settled in a modest house in Corona, Queens, where they lived for the remainder of their lives. Lucille left the house (which had already been declared a National Historic Landmark) to the City of New York to be made into museum. In 2003 the House opened to the public as a historic house museum. No one has lived in the House since the Armstrongs, and the house and its furnishings remain very much as they were during Louis and Lucille's lifetime. Guided 40-minute tours of the House leave every hour on the hour (check the days online), and group tours can be arranged by appointment. The archives are open by appointment.

NYC/Westchester - African-American Heritage Trail

Sample 2-day driving tour itinerary that explores a collection of sites, buildings and locations that reflect both the actions and experiences of African Americans in the evolution of the county.

Oswego - The Underground Railroad in Oswego County

Learn a bit about the Underground Railroad activity in this area, and download a driving tour map.

Purchase - The African Art Collection at the Neuberger Museum of Art

African art has been an integral part of the Neuberger Museum of Art since it opened in 1974. In 1999, the collection almost doubled in size with the major gift of 153 works. You will find extensive information about the collection online, where you can view art and interpretations, along with visitor information, exhibits and special events.

Rochester - AKWAABA Tours

AKWAABA interprets the 19th century freedom movement through tours, reenactments, plays and other educational presentations of the sites, personalities and events that comprised the Underground Railroad, especially those identified with the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Rochester - Black Heritage Rochester

Visit their website to learn more about blacks in Rochester history, and to find a calendar of events.

Rochester - Historic African American Connections Greater Rochester Visitors Association

A walk along downtown Rochester's Main Street yields information about the Underground Railroad (near Plymouth Avenue); Frederick Douglass (between State Street and the Genesee River); "The North Star" newspaper (25 East Main Street); and Austin Steward (at St. Paul Street), a runaway slave who became one of the community's first black businessmen and property owners. The website offers the usual tourism resources (lodging, dining, shopping) etc but for additional African American heritage sites and details, you need to stop in at a Visitor Center. The City of Frederick Douglass: Rochester's African-American People and Places, published by the Landmark Society of Western New York, is available at a small cost. Visitor information centers can also provide a free "Rochester African American Historical & Cultural Guide" plus information about any current exhibits or programs with African-American themes.

Syracuse - Onondaga Historical Association Museum

Their new permanent exhibit, Freedom Bound: Syracuse & the Underground Railroad, tells the history of anti-slavery and Underground Railroad activity. Additionally, a dramatic first-person video interpets of the watershed Jerry Rescue of 1 October 1851, a Syracuse anti-slavery event that resounded across the country.

Additional Resources

African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley. David Levinson, ed. Berkshire, 2006. Amazon.com.

The African American Heritage Trail tells the stories of Black luminaries who have lived in the area, including W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson. But it also details the life and times of ordinary/extraordinary African Americans. The area encompasses 29 communities in Western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut, and the book features 120 photos and illustrations, eight original maps, 67 articles, essays, a timeline and more.

Discovering Black New York: A Guide to the City's Most Important African American Landmarks, Restaurants, Museums, Historical Sites, and More. Linda Tarrant-Reid. Citadel Press, 2002. Order at Amazon.com

From the world-famous Apollo Theatre to the respected Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to the many excellent soul food restaurants, this unusual city travel guide covers all the hot spots, including historical sites, museums and art galleries, shopping, tours, nightclubs, and other attractions related to African American history and culture. Over 500 historically and culturally significant locations. Table of Contents.

Hippocrene Guide to Black New York. Joann Biondi, James Haskins. Hippocrene Books, 1993. Order at Amazon.com

Borough-by-borough gazetteer of historic sites and contemporary shops of special Afro-American interest.

Black Heritage Sites: The North. Nancy C. Curtis. New Press 1998 Order at Amazon.com

This volume includes descriptions and detailed visitor information for hundreds of places of national and local significance, from churches and schools to battlefields and cemeteries, from stops on the Underground Railroad to landmarks of the 1950s civil rights movement. Black Heritage Sites is perfect for travelers and historians of all kinds--from the family planning a cross-country trip to the armchair traveler interested in gaining a unique perspective on African American history.

African American Historic Places. Savage, Beth L. Wiley, 2005 Order at Amazon.com

Features 800 sites on the National Historic Register which relate to African American History. Organized by 41 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Because it is designed as an identification tool rather than as a trip planner, the book lists only addresses and does not note telephone numbers, access policies, or admission charges. The introduction, however, notes that approximately three-fourths of the properties are privately owned and not open to the public. Black-and-white photographs are provided for some of the sites, and eight introductory essays provide context for understanding the historical significance of the sites.

A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement. Jim Carrier. Harcourt Books, 2004. Order at Amazon.com

This book is fascinating even if you never leave home. It's both a travel guide and a reference for anyone wanting to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. But it's not limited to modern times; like many historians, the author takes the view that the struggle for civil rights began the moment the first enslaved African set foot on these shores and tried to break free. And it continued anywhere that people fought for dignity and equality. Consequently, the sites described here include sites of slave rebellions, legal battles, Underground Railroad safe houses, historically black colleges, churches, museums...even the minor league stadium in Florida where Jackie Robinson broke through the color line.

Historic Landmarks of Black America. Canter, George. Gale Group, 1991. Order at Amazon.com

Describes over 300 sites across the US and Canada, with entries ranging from a paragraph to several pages, with lots of illustrations. Each includes a historical sketch detailing the site's significance and practical information such as directions, hours, fees, and related sites....which of course you'd want to doublecheck before traveling! This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available cheap through used booksellers at Amazon.com.

In Their Footsteps: The American Visions Guide to African-American Historical Sites. Chase, Henry. Owlet, 1994. Order at Amazon.com

Similar to Canter's Historic Landmarks, but more comprehensive covering 46 states, Ontario and Nova Scotia. This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available through used booksellers at Amazon.com.

 

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