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7 Historical Sites Integral to Black History in the Hudson Valley

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Adobe Stock, New York State Museum | Photo by Ritu Jethani

Visit these historically significant attractions and museums, or utilize their online resources, during Black History Month in the Hudson Valley.

Mount Gulian Historic Site, Beacon

Today a national landmark and museum, this Dutch Colonial estate was once home to Beacon’s Verplank family and James F. Brown, their slave. The family was unusually kind to him, teaching Brown how to read and write, and paying him well. For over 40 years, Brown kept a diary of his daily happenings and, though much of it is mundane (largely weather reports and chores), his documentation gives us an insightful look at the life of a 19th century African American.

A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Library, Kingston

Named after a prominent Black Studies professor and historian at SUNY New Paltz, this Kingston community center works to promote literacy and understanding of African history through various forms of artistic expression. Yearlong, lectures, performances, movie screenings, and workshops celebrate the African-American legacy and experience in the Hudson Valley and beyond. Scour the website for frequent Zoom programming to dive into local history.

Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, Albany

For nearly 30 years, Albany residents Stephen and Harriet Meyers (both freed slaves, themselves) were dedicated to helping other African Americans escape from slavery. Today, the stately brick townhouse is listed on the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail and is a site on the National Park Service’s National Network to Freedom. On February 17, engage in a virtual tour of the site. Tours can be arranged by calling 518.621.7793, and masks must be worn at all times while visiting.

In Washington’s Shadow Audio Tour, Newburgh

This self-guided audio tour along Newburgh’s Washington Street follows the story of George Alsdorf, a former slave who opened a series of local businesses with the help of his family and assisted runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad. Notable stops include the Alsdorf House, AME Zion Church , The Colored School, The Alsdorf Academy, and the Desegregation of Colored School. Mask up and see history unfold.

 

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The Bevier-Elting House, New Paltz

Along with many other houses along Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz’s Bevier-Elting House had a brutal slave-related past. As one of the oldest stone houses on the street, it appears charming from the outside, but inside, its cellar served as a prison-like home for slaves who were locked in at night to avoid escape. Visit Historic Huguenot Street’s Facebook page for events and information throughout Black History Month.

The Hillburn School, Hillburn

Over a decade before his landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall represented the village’s African American parents in an effort to integrate the local school system. Formerly the Brook School for Colored Children, The HIllburn School did not have a library, gymnasium, or even indoor bathrooms, unlike Hillburn’s main school for white children. Marshall was victorious, winning the case in 1943. Learn about the battle for equality through the African American Historical Society of Rockland’s Virtual Museum, “an online venue to share history, artifacts and photographs highlighting the peoples of the African Diaspora in Rockland County and the Lower Hudson Valley.”

 

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The New York State Museum, Albany

With a collection of pieces spanning from the 18th century onwards, the Hudson Valley museum documents the social history of slavery, abolition and civil rights efforts, military action, and the day-to-day life of African Americans living in New York State. The website is full of educational resources, excerpts from exhibits, and virtual events for Black History Month.

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