Events, Places, Programs and Virtual Content Features African American Impacts on State History
Governor Kathy Hochul invites New Yorkers to help celebrate African American contributions to state history during Black History Month through events, online programming and visits to State Parks and historic sites.
"New York State is home to incredible cultural heritage for Black History Month, and our parks and historic sites give us a chance to reflect on the invaluable contributions made by the African American community as well as the struggles and challenges that many still experience today," Governor Hochul said. "As we celebrate Black History Month, it's up to each of us to do everything in our power to build a better, more just society. Divided, we falter alone - but united, we rise together."
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Part of our mission is to protect and preserve the state's historic heritage, and to broaden the stories we tell to better include those who have been underrepresented in the past. I encourage New Yorkers to take advantage of some of our engaging programming during Black History Month."
OGS Acting Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, "OGS is proud to host State Parks' Black History Month exhibit at the Empire State Plaza. We encourage New Yorkers to visit this display along with a series of other displays on the concourse to learn more about the innumerable contributions African Americans have made to our State's history and reflect upon the immense suffering enslaved Africans endured as a result of the transatlantic slave trade."
One highlight will be a display at the Empire State Plaza in Albany on the impact of the 17th century Dutch slave trade network in North America, the Atlantic and Africa, entitled "A Dishonorable Trade: Human Trafficking in the Dutch Atlantic World."
Starting Jan. 26 near the plaza concourse Madison Avenue entrance, the exhibit explores the interconnectedness of the African, Caribbean, South American, North American, and European trade networks of the Dutch West India Company and highlights the activity between Curacao and New Netherland, which later became the English colony of New York and then New York State. The exhibit examines the role that slavery played in the creation and maintenance of the Dutch trading empire and the impact on the lives of enslaved people affected by the trade.
The exhibition, created by Parks staff with support of a grant from the from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition and Resistance at Yale University and an immersive study session at the Yale Public History Institute of Yale University, was displayed at the Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer County from 2015 to 2018. It later was loaned to the Schenectady County Historical Society and later displayed at Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction.
Black History Month traces its origins to 1915 and the national 50th anniversary emancipation celebration in Chicago, where African American historian, author and journalist Carter G. Woodson staged a history exhibit. In 1926, Woodson selected the second week in February for Negro History Week as a nationwide event. It grew into a month-long celebration and was federally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 during the U.S. Bicentennial.
To learn more about Dr. Woodson's life and work, and his founding of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), visit https://asalh.org.
State Parks events and programming scheduled for February include:
- "Pioneers in Science," Connetquot River State Park Preserve, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Feb. 13 - Learn about the contributions to the foundations of modern science by Black scientists and see demonstrations of relevant experiments. Registration is required through Eventbrite.com, and then searching for #NatureEdventure.
- "Art by Basquiat," Connetquot River State Park Preserve, 1:30 to 3 p.m. Feb. 19 - The late Jean-Michel Basquiat was an African American artist whose work painted tributes to African American historical figures, jazz musicians, sports personalities and writers, as well as a series of self-portraits and other works using social commentary as a tool for introspection. Attendees will be encouraged to use that inspiration to paint their own self-portrait. Reservations are available two weeks prior to the event through Eventbrite.com and then by searching for #NatureEdventure.
- "Substitutes, Servants and Soldiers: The Black Presence at New Windsor Cantonment," Clermont State Historic Site, 2 p.m. Feb. 19 - During the winter of 1782-1783, among the 7,500 Continental Army soldiers encamped at New Windsor were soldiers of African descent, who joined of their own free will or as substitutes for people who claimed ownership of them. Learn more about these soldiers and their contributions at the last encampment of the American Revolutionary War. The program will be presented by Matthew Thorenz, head of Reference and Adult Services at the Moffat Library of Washingtonville. Thorenz is also an independent historian who worked as a museum educator at New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site for seven years, when he conducted this research. He has published several articles on the American Revolution and World War I. Masks are required to attend this event. Advance registration is required at https://www.friendsofclermont.org/events
- "Planet Explorers," Connetquot River State Park Preserve, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 25 - Learn about the contributions of Black astronomers and astronauts while stargazing, weather permitting. Registration is required through Eventbrite.com, and then searching for #NatureEdventure.
Each Thursday in February, staffers at the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in the city of Albany will take a historic portrait of the Schuyler family and reinterpret it through a Black history perspective. The mansion is the former home of Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general, U.S. Senator, and a businessman who also held enslaved people on his estate. The program is being held on Instagram and can be located using the hashtag #schuylermansion.
At the John Jay Homestead Historic Site in Westchester County, a virtual lecture will be held at 6 p.m. February 24 that examines the legacy of slavery through seven generations of the Jay family. John Jay was a prominent figure in the American Revolution and helped negotiate the peace treaty with England at the end of the war.
The event requires registration at www.johnjayhomestead.org The website also features virtual exhibits, school programs and tour that also explore the Jay family's history as enslavers, and the dedication of later generations of Jays to the abolitionist cause.
In the Long Island Region, the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center will hold a screening at 2 p.m. Feb. 26 of a film entitled "The Falconer," a documentary on African American falconer Rodney Stotts who used the ancient sport to help turn around his life, and then to help inner city youngsters find a better path. He has a non-profit group, Wings Over America, that promotes visits to schools in the Washington, D.C. area.
The film will also be available online at the center's website, https://www.jonesbeachenc.org/, from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28.
Several State Parks in the Long Island region will feature displays on notable African Americans, including Hempstead Lake State Park Environmental Education and Resiliency Center, West Hempstead; Jones Beach State Park Energy & Nature Center-West End, Wantagh; Jones Beach State Park, Field 4, Central Mall, Wantagh; Long Island State Parks Regional Headquarters Lobby, Babylon; Nissequogue River State Park, Kings Park - Administrative Building; and Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park Visitor Center, Oyster Bay. Contact each facility for hours.
The State Parks Blog also has recent posts on African American historical items, including the Dutch colonial-era African American holiday of Pinkster, 19th century abolitionist Sojourner Truth and her life in the Hudson Valley, the 19th century emancipation holiday of Juneteenth, the creation of an African-American community in the Adirondacks during the mid-19th century, the stationing of African American soldiers at Fort Ontario at the turn of the 20th century, and the role of African American leadership in the Civilian Conservation Corps in New York State during the Great Depression.
State Parks has a webpage outline on these items and more online at https://parks.ny.gov/history/black-history/default.aspx.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 78 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.