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8 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 memorials, museums, and educational programs 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. General tours are offered at the site, and guests will be able to see the Mount Gulian house, the Dutch Barn, and the Heritage Garden.

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. Through events, paintings, books, oral history, and other forms of artistic expression, people can celebrate the African-American legacy and experience in the Hudson Valley and beyond. Scour the website for frequent event 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. Tours can be arranged by calling 518.621.7793, and tickets can be purchased online. Masks are currently required for all visitors of the Myers Residence, regardless of vaccination status. For a full list of Black History Month events, including presentations by renowned local scholars, visit the event calendar.

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. Ready to start? Look for signs beginning at 93 Liberty Street. Next, head to the corners of 109, 266, and 401 Washington Ave. 

 

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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. Historic Huguenot Street is currently closed for the winter season, but will reopen for tours in May. Until then, check out the collections, history, and exhibits on the website.

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.”

Check out the events page for upcoming in-person and virtual educational sessions. 

 

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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. The museum is open for guests. Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are required to enter.

Sojourner Truth Statue, Highland

After escaping three decades of enslavement in Ulster County by crossing Shaupeneak Ridge, Sojourner Truth went on to become a passionate advocate in the Abolitionist, Suffragette, and Civil Rights movements. To represent a piece of the Sojourner Truth Trail and honor her legacy, a seven-foot bronze statue of her has been unveiled at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in Ulster County. The statue was unveiled in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Take a walk across the bridge for scenic views of the Hudson River and enjoy the history the Hudson Valley has to offer.

Related: African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley

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