Festivals & Annual Events | Tourism | New York State Celebrates Black History Month In February

New York State Celebrates Black History Month In February

By 1976, Black History Month was celebrated all across the US. President Gerald Ford recognized it during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, and exhorted Americans to honor African Americans.

February is Black History Month in the United States. In New York State, the month-long event is celebrated as a symbolic recognition of inclusivity and diversity in life.

What originated in the US as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, Black History Month has been recognized in other countries too, including Canada, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands. (Across the pond, they celebrate it in October.)

Black History Month was proposed by educators and students at Kent State University in February 1969. A year afterwards, the first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.

By 1976, Black History Month was celebrated all across the US. And then President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, and exhorted Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor African Americans.

In 2018, Instagram created its first-ever Black History Month program with the help of its then Head of Global Music & Youth Culture Communications.

By 2020, Black History Month had become an event. The Wall Street Journal describes it as "a time when the culture and contributions of African Americans take center stage" in a variety of cultural institutions including theaters, libraries and museums.

Corporate America was not lagging. In February last year, Forbes noted that corporate participants in Black History Month included Coca-Cola, Google, Target, Macy's, UPS and Under Armour.

Across New York State there have always been plenty of events centered around Black History Month. New York has been central to the movement in history. For example, New York state helped tens of thousands of freedom seekers escape enslavement by the Underground Railroad.

And there ought to be no difficulty in noting the involvement of New York African Americans in jazz and sports, Charlie Parker and Jackie Robinson to name only two in a stellar list that is as long as history.

Not the least Harriet Tubman, who will be on the $20 bill. Tubman moved to Auburn, NY in 1859, buying her home for $1,200 from Senator William Seward. She stayed in the Finger Lakes city until her death in 1913. Harriet Tubman is buried at Auburn's Fort Hill Cemetery, about a mile from where she lived.

Here are some places in which to learn more about black history in New York State, (may we suggest, safely with masks and social distance…?)

New York City

You could spend all of February taking in Black History Month in New York City. Here are some recommendations:

The famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City

Harlem Heritage Tours

This is one of the best experiences of the month. The tours offer a view into the history of jazz, hip-hop and gospel, as well as an introduction to the art of Harlem. The tour guides were born and raised in the Harlem community, giving visitors the insider perspective. There’s music, soul food and shopping to enjoy, in Harlem.

Find them here: https://www.harlemheritage.com/

Hush Hip Hop Tours

This tour is for those who love hip hop. The tour showcases the evolution of the art through the artists’ lens. The guides tell stories and anecdotes as only old-school rhyme masters could. The four-hour tours explore Manhattan and the Bronx or Brooklyn and Queens. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Grandmaster Caz and Roxanne Shante, often lead or make guest appearances during the tours.

Tickets and info available from operators online. 

UN Black History Tours

The United Nations conducts a special Black History Month tour. Starting at 2:30pm all weekdays in February, the tour includes a visit to the Ark of Return, the UN’s permanent memorial to the victims of slavery. More information and tickets here on the UN website.

Black History Month Upstate New York

Finger Lakes

Harriet Tubman National Historic Park

Harriet Tubman helped countless freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad. She made rescue trips to the south, earning her the title as Moses of her people. The history of the Underground Railroad and Tubman’s heroic efforts can be viewed at the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Auburn, New York.

Website: https://www.nps.gov/hart/index.htm

Harriet Tubman's home
Harriet Tubman


John Brown Farm State Historic Site

An American abolitionist leader. Brown felt that speeches, sermons, petitions, and moral persuasion were ineffective in the cause for abolishing slavery in the United States. An intensely religious man, Brown believed he was raised up by God to strike the death blow to American slavery. He felt that violence was necessary to end it. "He also believed that in all ages of the world God had created certain men to perform special work in some direction far in advance of their countrymen, even at the cost of their lives. He believed that among his earthly missions was to free the American slave...and it must be performed.

In 1859, John Brown and his soldiers raided the US arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, intending to use arms to liberate slaves in the South. Brown was captured, tried, and hanged. His body was buried in front of his home in North Elba in 1859.

John Brown

At the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, see the home and gravesite of the ardent abolitionist best known for his 1850 raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia and the famous folk song that immortalized his death. 

The remains of several of Brown's followers, who fought and died at Harper's Ferry, were moved to this small graveyard in 1899. Visitors can tour the home and gravesite of the ardent abolitionist, immortalized in the famous folk song.

John Brown the first person executed for treason in the history of the United States

Site: https://www.parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/29/details.aspx

Greater Niagara

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

This museum reveals authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls. Located inside the former 1863 U.S. Custom House attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station, the 'One More Rive to Cross' permanent exhibition features the rich stories of the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls. The experience includes stories about Harriet Tubman along with Niagara Falls heroes of the Underground Railroad like John Morrison.


Underground Railroad Heritage

Central NY

National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum

Located in Cooperstown, the National Baseball Hall of Fame features more than 60,000 square feet of treasures from baseball's glorious past. This attraction honors the players, managers, executives, and umpires who have achieved excellence in America's sport. 

Jackie Robinson

When he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson broke racial barriers. Robinson was the first Black player enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Thirty-five players from the Negro League, professional baseball leagues with predominantly African American players, were also later elected into the Hall. In 2020, Major League Baseball officially recognized Negro League players as equals to their MLB counterparts. Today, fans celebrate athletes of all backgrounds at the The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Pic credits: John Brown - By Augustus Washington, Jackie Robinson - janeb13 (Pixabay)

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