Archives for Black History

Local History: Rosa Kittrell

October 10 has been designated World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organization. In honor of it, here is a story about a White Plains resident whose activism on behalf of people with mental illness had a national impact. Rosa Kittrell worked hard to redefine the way we view and treat the most vulnerable members of society. Through her tireless activism, personal struggles with mental illness, and belief in the power of education, Kittrell developed a motto: “Others, Lord, others.” Like so many black women in America, Kittrell was intersectional in her activism before anyone ever heard of that
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Categories: History.

Local History: School’s Out, Pt. 2

The late 1960s was a time of increasing consciousness about racial issues in the United States. The mainstream civil rights movement won victories in 1964 and 1965 with large pieces of Federal legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. By 1968, however, because of issues like Vietnam, economic injustice, the conditions of urban life, and the nature of black identity some people questioned how much progress had really been made. The civil rights movement itself was fractured. Some advocated equality and integration within the framework of American society. Others, generally younger activists, promoted black power or
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Categories: History.

Local History: School’s Out, Pt. 1

The late 1960s was a time of increasing consciousness about racial issues in the United States. The mainstream civil rights movement won victories in 1964 and 1965 with large pieces of Federal legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. By 1968, however, because of issues like Vietnam, economic injustice, the conditions of urban life, and the nature of black identity some people questioned how much progress had really been made. The civil rights movement itself was fractured. Some advocated equality and integration within the framework of American society. Others, generally younger activists, promoted black power or
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Categories: History.

Local History: Researching Greenburgh

All kinds of curious researchers find their way to the library and discover the White Plains Collection can help answer their questions. I’ve helped people find their yearbook picture, learn about the people who used to live in their house (no American Horror Stories uncovered yet), unearth lost city reports, and find photographs they didn’t know existed. Two recent research queries covered similar topics, and all the researchers are generating interesting projects about Greenburgh.   The Greenburgh African American Historical Alliance is a newly formed community-based organization created to assist in the historical preservation of African American heritage, history and
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Categories: History.

Local History: 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
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Categories: History.

Black History StoryWalk® Features Steamboat School

Children at the White Plains Public Library are invited to take a walk along The Trove’s 2017 Black History StoryWalk®. This year’s walk is based on the book, Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Ron Husband. In this story, the teacher, Reverend John Berry Meachum, and his students refused to accept discrimination based on skin color. Meachum opened the “Floating Freedom School” in the middle of the Mississippi River in response to the Missouri law in 1847 that stated that “No person shall keep any school for the instruction of negroes or
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Categories: History and Kids.

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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Children Walk with George Moses Horton

Children at White Plains Public Library are learning about George Moses Horton as they walk The Trove’s Black History StoryWalk® which is on display in the Library’s art gallery during the month of February through Sunday, March 13, 2016. The StoryWalk® is based on the book: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, written and illustrated by Don Tate. George Moses Horton was a slave who grew up working long hours on a North Carolina farm. Though unable to attend school, he was determined and taught himself to read. While he tended his master’s cattle, he composed verses in
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Categories: Events, Gallery, Kids, and Uncategorized.

Kick Off Black History Month

The Trove at the White Plains Public Library and White Plains Juneteenth Heritage Committee have joined together to kick off February as Black History Month on Sunday, January 31 in The Trove. The activities begin at 1:00 p.m. with the opening of the annual Black History StoryWalk®. This year’s StoryWalk® is  based on the book, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton written and illustrated by Don Tate. This is an opportunity to learn about George Moses Horton, the first African-American man to be published. The StoryWalk® is open during regular library hours to families with children in first
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Categories: Events and Kids.

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
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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
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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,
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Categories: History and Oral History.