February is Black History Month, and New York State offers a special window into African American history. Home to more than twenty-four Underground Railroad sites and with deep historical ties to leaders like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, we have a number of historic sites, museums, and cultural events waiting for you to explore.
Need help navigating? Below are a list of must-see places around the state including Path Through History sites to mark on your map. Be sure to share your journey with us on Twitter and Instagram using #ILoveNY and #PathThroughHistory and tag us on Facebook to share your stories!
Fighting for Liberation. Lake Placid is the resting place to the ardent 19th-century abolitionist John Brown, best known for his failed attempt to catalyze the liberation of slaves in the South. Brown was also a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad and helped freed slaves develop their own farms in New York. Visit his home and final resting place, the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, where you can get a refined sense of this important piece of our history.
Fighting in the American Revolution. Check out the “Men of African Descent at the Battle of Saratoga,” held at the Saratoga National Historical Park on Feb. 7, 2016. The presentation honors the role of black soldiers at Saratoga: crucial battles in the trajectory of the Revolutionary War where white and black soldiers fought arm and arm.
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Center for Abolitionists. When a group of 600 abolitionists—the NYS Anti-Slavery Society—were left with nowhere to meet in 1835, wealthy landowner Gerrit Smith invited them to assemble at Peterboro Presbyterian Church. The former church, now the Smithfield Community Center, currently houses the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, a portal into the dangerous lives of abolitionists living and fighting for freedom in the nineteenth century.
Fenton History Center
Disguised as women. Visit the Fenton History Center in Jamestown to learn about the key role Jamestown and Chautauqua County played in the Underground Railroad, including the story of escaped slaves disguised as women.
Harriet Tubman Home
A Glimpse at The Underground Railroad. Head to Auburn to visit the home of Harriet Tubman, known famously as the Underground Railroad "conductor." She was also a humanitarian who stood for both African American and women's rights.
Rochester Museum & Science Center
Meet the people. Go to Rochester, where you will find the "Flight to Freedom" exhibits in the Rochester Museum & Science Center. These interactive exhibits reveal the story of influential African American abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass as well as other formerly enslaved freedom seekers such as Austin Steward, Harriet Jacobs, and Reverend Thomas James.
Matilda Joslyn Gage Home
Don’t forget to stop by the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, a center for equal rights, and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home in Fayetteville, a museum devoted to furthering the progressive ideas of suffrage leader and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage.
Last Stop on the Underground Railroad. Head to Buffalo, a key link in the Underground Railroad. Travel through time with a tour set to take place in the nineteenth century by Motherland Connections. “Conductors” will take you to the city's Underground Railroad sites, then you’ll be invited to view Freedom Crossing, a film exhibit about the Underground Railroad.
A Creative Center. Visit the oldest continuously run African American musicians club in the U.S., the Colored Musicians Club Museum. Founded in 1935 and full of interactive exhibits, the museum shares the stories of the jazz legends who performed there and the legacy they left behind.
Slavery and Emancipation. Visit John Jay's estate, now the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, where you can enjoy educational programs in history, social justice, and environmental stewardship. Jay, an early advocate of emancipation and founding father of the United States, pushed for the abolition of slavery in New York State.
Where the slaves lived. For a glimpse into the reality of what slavery was like in the north, visit Philipsburg in Tarrytown, an 18th-century working farm.
Discover African-American culture. Visit the African American Museum in Hempstead, a unique place that helps promote understanding and appreciation of African American culture.
A talent for poetry. Take a literary walk through history at the Joseph Lloyd Manor House in Lloyd Harbor. The home-turned-museum is where Jupiter Hammon, the first published black poet in the U.S., lived and wrote.
NEW YORK CITY
Hands-on History. Visit King Manor in Jamaica, Queens, a museum dedicated to preserving the historic home and legacy of anti-slavery politician Rufus King. A member of the Continental Congress and framer and signer of the Constitution, King was perhaps most known for his radical anti-slavery speeches to the Senate before the Civil War.
Pictures of Black Culture. Get a glimpse of the past 200 years of black history at the Studio Museum located in the heart of Harlem, which houses works by African artists from around the world.
Where it all began. Visit the Apollo Theatre in Harlem where some of the best African American talent of the twentieth century have performed. Since the 1930s, it has been the premiere venue showcasing talent such as Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. Afterward, head to Queens to see Louis Armstrong’s House Museum.