Archives for African-American History

Local History Blog: Black History Month

It’s February, a month recognized as Black History Month across America. Sometimes also called African American History Month, wide-scale public recognition of the history of Black Americans began in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. In 1926, Negro History Week was established through the ASALH. The commemoration was updated in 1975 and given its current form by an act of Congress and a Presidential Proclamation in 1986. A full history of the public commemoration can be found here. In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Read More

Categories: History and Homepage.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Kenny Lee

We are grateful to start our collaboration with White Plains Jazz Fest and ArtsWestchester on a good note–with an oral history by Kenny Lee, whose life and music are important parts of White Plains history. Lee is known to different people for different things. Some know him as a trumpet player and band leader of the Kenny Lee All Stars. Others know him as a detective with the White Plains Police Department. Lee was born in White Plains and, taking after his father, started playing trumpet at an early age. He played in the White Plains Schools in the jazz
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: YWCA GEMS

People & Stories was thrilled when Rhonda Brooks and Candi Poinsette, of the YWCA, reached out to collaborate on an oral history project about the history of the GEMS. GEMS stands for “Girls Empowered Through Meaningful Support” and has existed in one form or another for over 40 years in White Plains. GEMS strives to assist girls in the White Plains community in becoming self-reliant, competent, caring and healthy. It does so by providing relevant engaging activities in the areas of cultural awareness, health and wellness, college and careers, and self-esteem. Current members of GEMS met with alumni to learn
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Lord Judah & JCA

This is the first time People & Stories is presenting a produced oral history, and it’s for a good reason. Lord Judah is the artist behind H.I.P.H.O.P., which stands for Highly Intelligent People Healing Our Planet. H.I.P.H.O.P. is many things. It’s a philosophy for engaging with social issues, a mobile-teaching unit, and an artistic collective. H.I.P.H.O.P. is combining music with a social justice mission through teaching workshops with young people and support for local artists. Lord Judah and JCA mix their personal stories about coming up in White Plains with insights about how to find a place as an artist
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: The Mosleys

Brandon Mosley took the question posed by television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” seriously and set out to discover how he came to be in White Plains. His mother told him stories about his great-aunt’s successful cosmetic company in Harlem, his grandfather’s influential role in White Plains public schools, and his great-grandfather’s life as a preacher in North Carolina–and he discovered many more. He wrote a history of his mother’s (Marcia’s) side of the family in The Tree That Shades Me, which he self-published. In their oral history, Brandon talks about the process of discovering his family’s history
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

Street Maps and Family Pictures

The local history community in White Plains has been busy over the past few months! We are proud to share the Streets of White Plains, an interactive map created by Cliff Blau that explains the history of many street names in our city. Cliff thoroughly plumbed the White Plains Collection at the Library, then doggedly followed leads to the County Clerk’s Office and beyond. View the map on our Atlases and Maps page and use the share button to show it to friends or family! Back in December, we had a Community History Day where we scanned photographs, documents, or
Read More

Categories: History.

People & Stories Goes National!

Kevin Tidmarsh and Saahil Desai, students at Pomona College in California, investigate the stories of early students of color at their school in the first episode of Hidden Pomona, “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Drawing on Leola Bryant’s oral history in our People & Stories Collection, Tidmarsh and Desai chronicle the impact White Plains native and Pomona alumnus Eileen Johnson had on the lives of African-Americans.
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

Everyone’s a Historian: Community History Day

At White Plains Public Library, we believe in sharing historical authority with the community.  So last Saturday, we created a space in which everyone was a historian.  No one person has a monopoly on the past and no single narrative could possibly tell all our stories.  We all have knowledge of the past, it’s just a matter of sharing and using it! Several community members brought items from their personal collections to be digitized and added to our online collection.  We had a diverse group of people, from life-long White Plains residents to current and past members of government to
Read More

Categories: History.

Hiking The Hills at Silver Lake

On Saturday, November 14, I joined a group of history-minded individuals in a hike guided by Bice Wilson through the archeological remains of The Hills, an African American community that existed between the 1790s and the early 20th century.  In her book, Freedom Journey, Edythe Ann Quinn estimates that the population of The Hills reached its peak in the 1860s, with about 200 people living in numerous dwellings.  Most of these homes were located along Stony Hill Road, which begins off Lake Street in West Harrison and disappears into woods.  As recently as one hundred years ago, these woods were
Read More

Categories: Events and History.

Meet the Author: Edythe Ann Quinn and “Freedom Journey”

Join us on Wednesday, September 30 at 7:00 PM as Dr. Edythe Ann Quinn shares from her new book Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and The Hills Community, Westchester County, New York. Through wonderfully detailed letters, recruit rosters, and pension records, Quinn tells the story of thirty-five African American Civil War soldiers and the United States Colored Troop (USCT) regiments with which they served. The men all came from The Hills, an African American community near present-day Silver Lake. Their ties to family, land, church, school, and occupational experiences at home buffered the brutal indifference of boredom and battle,
Read More

Categories: Authors & Books, Events, and History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Dr. Olivia J. Hooker

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker turned 100 in 2015. She is a fascinating, brilliant, fun person, and White Plains is lucky to count her among its residents. Her life started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her father owned a successful department store. His store and the neighborhood known as The Black Wall Street were destroyed in what Dr. Hooker called “the terrible catastrophe in Tulsa.” “Other people called it the Tulsa Riot. It really wasn’t a riot–we were the victims,” said Dr. Hooker. The Greenwood district of Tulsa was devastated by the racist violence, and news of the injustice was under-reported in
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Al Surya Peterson

Al Surya Peterson has deep roots in the White Plains area and is a knowledgeable and ardent proponent of black history in Westchester County. His grandfather came to work on the Rockefeller Estate in the early 20th century and settled on land owned by a former slave on Saxon Woods Road. In this oral history, Peterson describes growing up in a close-knit black community on the White Plains-Scarsdale border. Although he attended school in Scarsdale, he spent (and continues to spend) lots of time in White Plains. He visited family and friends here during his childhood, was the first African-American
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Leola Bryant

Leola Bryant sat down with Teddy Lee and Ben Himmelfarb to record this oral history.  Bryant’s memory and wit are crisp, and her stories about White Plains are highly informative. She recalls life for children in downtown White Plains and the distinct geographic and ethnic character of the neighborhoods. Bryant is especially insightful about how segregation and discrimination affected black citizens of White Plains. Although she recalls being discriminated against in her job, she feels the schools were free from the prejudice that affected so many other areas of her life. Eileen Johnson, daughter of a White Plains doctor, was
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Teddy Lee, Jr.

Theodore Jay Lee, Jr., better known as Teddy, is the owner of Lee’s Funeral Home and a lifelong resident of White Plains. His father, Theodore Jay Lee, Sr., migrated north from Virginia, became a licensed undertaker, and began working in Westchester County. In the late 1920s, Lee Sr. moved to White Plains and opened a funeral home at 57 Brookfield Street. Lee remembers the pride and integrity with which his father operated the business, helping people with personal problems or their taxes in addition to funeral arrangements. Lee vividly recalls life for children in downtown White Plains during the 1930s
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Harry Bright

People & Stories is the oral history project of the White Plains Public Library. People & Stories seeks to record and share the voices of people who have lived or worked in White Plains. The project functions by pairing interviewers with storytellers from the community. If you are interested in becoming an interviewer, we have our first training event on Saturday, April 18, from 10:30 am- 12:00 pm at the Library. Harry Bright’s work as an educator took him around the world, from Cambodia to Europe, and, of course, to White Plains. Bright worked as a teacher and coach at
Read More

Categories: History and Oral History.