Albany, NY – Students from Kingston High School and PS 95 from the Bronx visit the “Empowerment: From Freedom to the Fight for Opportunity,” on display at the Capitol.
Today is the opening of the Black History Month exhibit at the New York State Capital honoring African-American civil rights leaders and activists, writers, philanthropists, an Arctic explorer, and the brave World War I Harlem Hellfighters regiment—all of whom have New York connections and have made a lasting impact on our state. The exhibit is located in the War Room on the second floor of the New York State Capitol and will run through the end of February.
“This history is New York’s history and it is the deeds and accomplishments of these men and women that helped build the foundation of equality and fairness that this state rests upon,” said Governor Cuomo . “I urge residents and tourists alike to visit this exhibit and learn more about the contributions of these visionary African-American leaders and great New Yorkers.”
This exhibit honors prominent African-Americans throughout New York history — from Stephen Myers, who led the active Albany Underground Railroad station and Harriet Tubman helped lead fugitives to freedom at the Canadian border, to the late Gwen Ifill, a Peabody award winning journalist and first African-American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program. Ifill passed away last year.
This month-long pop-up museum exhibit also includes historic artifacts and documents that provide a glimpse into the lives and accomplishments of these dedicated African-Americans, such as toy soldiers of the Harlem Hellfighters, and the beauty care products sold door-to-door by a fleet of Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Co. saleswomen in the early 1900s.
On special loan to the New York State Capitol are the briefcase, personal documents, and several key historic letters of civil rights icon A. Philip Randolph, who led the first predominantly African-American labor union and served as the leader of 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. After being displayed here, these items, loaned by the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, D.C., will enter the permanent collection of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, also located in Washington D.C. Also on display are personal effects of Arctic explorer Matthew Henson, on loan from The Explorers Club in New York City, including his fur-lined mittens and the compass from the Roosevelt schooner used in the historic 1909 expedition to the North Pole, led by Commander Robert Peary.
The following African-American leaders (listed in alphabetical order) are being recognized for their accomplishments at this exhibit:
“click” on any image to enlarge”
• Marie M. Daly (1921 – 2003): First African-American woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in chemistry (Columbia University, NY), ground-breaking researcher, and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, who helped other minority students enter the sciences.
• Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895): Abolitionist, best-selling author of three auto-biographies, prominent intellectual of his time and longtime resident of Rochester.
• W. E. B. Du Bois (1868 – 1963): Early civil rights leader, founder of the Niagara Movement, a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and editor of NAACP magazine The Crisis in New York City.
• Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005): Educator, first African-American congresswoman, college professor, and public speaker.
• 369th Infantry Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters” (1917 – 1918): The first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.
• Matthew Henson, (1866 – 1955): First African-American Arctic explorer as the second-hand man of Commander Robert Peary on seven voyages over a period of nearly 23 years, and longtime resident of New York City.
• Gwen Ifill (1955 – 2016): Political reporter, co-anchor of PBS “NewsHour,” and best-selling author who became the first African-American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program with “Washington Week in Review.” Ifill was born in Queens and, growing up, lived for several years in public housing in Buffalo and on Staten Island.
• Constance Baker Motley (1921 – 2005): Graduate of Columbia Law School, integral member of NAACP legal team in New York City that won major civil rights legal battles in the 20th Century, first black woman to serve as Manhattan Borough President, first black woman to serve as federal judge, and first black woman to serve as chief federal district court judge.
• Stephen Myers (1800 – 1870): Former slave and prominent newspaper publisher of The Telegraph and Temperance Journal, activist, and leader of the Albany Underground Railroad.
• Ted Poston (1906 – 1974): One of the first African-American journalists to work at a mainstream newspaper, the New York Post, author of award-winning early Civil Rights Era coverage of racially-charged 1949 Florida rape trial for the Post, and member of the famed “black cabinet,” an informal group of African-American policy advisors to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
• A. Philip Randolph (1889 – 1979): One of the major civil rights leaders of 20th Century and longtime resident of New York City who organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African-American labor union, and, in the early Civil Rights Movement, prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 in 1941, banning discrimination in the defense industries during World War II; as well as serve as the leader of 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
• Bayard Rustin (1912 – 1987): Longtime Harlem resident, civil rights leader, openly gay African-American, advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
• Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also Arthur Schomburg (1874 –1938): Historian, writer, and activist of the Harlem Renaissance, whose collection of African-American literature, art, and materials became the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library branch in Harlem.
• Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989): Harlem resident and nurse who, as the executive director of the National Council of Colored Graduate Nurses, helped break down color barriers for nurses serving in World War II.
• Mary Burnett Talbert (1866- 1923): Educator, American orator, Buffalo activist, suffragist, teacher, reformer, and a founder of the Niagara Movement.
• The Rev. Gardner Taylor (1918 – 2015): Highly-acclaimed African-American minister who spoke nationally and internationally and served, for 42 years, as lead pastor of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Concord Baptist Church of Christ, the second largest Baptist congregation in America.
• Franklin A. Thomas (b. 1934): First African-American president of Ford Foundation and former federal prosecutor in New York City who was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant and attended Columbia University for college and law school.
• Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913): Abolitionist and leader on the Underground Railroad who lived in Auburn, where she became an advocate for the aging and for women’s suffrage.
• Madam C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919): An African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist who created the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, offering many African-American women their first job opportunity outside of domestic work.
• Robert C. Weaver (1907 – 1977): First African-American Cabinet member as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who previously served as New York State Rent Commissioner, New York State’s first black State Cabinet member.
The Black History Month exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information about visiting the New York State Capitol, please go to: http://www.ogs.ny.gov/esp/ct/tours/Capitol.asp