Celebrate Black History in New York State

Published on : Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the eve of Black History Month, New York State today announced the celebration of its Civil Rights and Underground Railroad sites. 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. Nevertheless, anti-black discrimination remained an issue well into the 20th century, and the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) actually 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.

Today, thought-provoking historic sites, museums and events help visitors understand the roles and lives of enslaved Africans, the struggle for freedom and equality, and the many contributions of African Americans. In fact, there are more than 24 Underground Railroad sites throughout the state and former slaves’ quarters can be viewed at many well-preserved 17th and 18th century homes and estates. Most people are surprised to know that New York was a slave state until 1827, and at one time, nearly half of all households included at least one enslaved African. February’s Black History Month is a great time to explore this rich cultural legacy throughout New York State, but be sure to include these fascinating sites in your travels as you explore the state year-round.

The new “Path Through History” program, recently introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, makes it even easier to explore Black heritage sites. Civil Rights, a key aspect of African American culture, are one of 12 themes used to organize 200-plus heritage sites across the state. The program includes identifying markers on major state highways as well as additional local signage with a distinctive Path Through History logo to help point the way and a web page on http://cts.vresp.com/c/?ILoveNY/44c5800ce3/045909ed29/958dc2e6fd provides a list of sites along with information about each one. Path Through History will be celebrated with more than 200 events throughout the state on June 1 -2 and 7 – 8, so be sure to check back for more information.

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