Dunbar Center (http://www.dunbarassociation.org/about) served as a settlement house for Black people moving to Syracuse from the South. Urban Renewal and the 15th Ward.  Born in 1934, his family has been in Central New York (Horseheads and Ithaca) since the 1800’s. Photo taken shortly after the wedding of Ruth and Bixby Nelson, ages 23 and 24.  Wichita Kansas, ca. 1928.  Bixby later became a prize-fighter in the city of Syracuse and went on to become a light-heavyweight champion in California and sparring partner for Joe Louis. Her sister (Smokes Family) took everyone in.  She never turned anyone away. Her uncle, Christopher Columbus Gayle (sic), left the south in the 1800’s and headed for New York. Recruited to Syracuse in 1965 to be a chemist at Carrier Corporation, he marries into an established Syracuse family (Harder) whose roots extend to Auburn and Saratoga. Clipping from the Syracuse Herald-Journal noting the hiring of Marjorie Dey -later to become Marjorie Cater by marriage- as the first African American school teacher in Syracuse. Syracuse NY, ca 1950. Born in Alachua, Florida to Raymond Williams and Amanda Mitchell, she came to Syracuse in 1940. Born in Thomasville, Georgia in 1925, Mrs. Young moved to Syracuse on Nov. 30, 1946 and lived in the 15th Ward “until they tore it down in 1960’s”. Moved to Syracuse with her parents, Frank and Peggy Wood, in 1950. Family members were activists from “the beginning of the urban renewal crisis”. Born on Washington Street in the 1940’s, Charles marries Gloria Dumas in 1961, “moves on up”, and keeps his father’s locomotive invention in Syracuse, NY. Photographers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs settled in Syracuse, New York. His mother, a member of the Hasbrook family, was born in Syracuse in the 1800’s.  They came on “the real railroad” (New York Central Railroad stop on Franklin Street).  The Methodist Ministry brings Joseph Willard Miller and Ersel Carmen Swan together in matrimony, and creates opportunity for travel across the United States. Rev. Mike left Georgia for Florida, then onto North Carolina and finally to Central New York in 1951. Mrs. Carter’s deep roots in Central New York stretch to family members in South Onondaga, Fulton, and Skaneateles. Family names include Welch, Day/Dey, Bryant, Coles, and Miller. Beverly Henby, Reverend Dr. Beatrice Adams, (nee Walls), Yasmin Af-Lateef (nee Barbara Walls), Amatullah Yamini (nee Emily Loretta Walls) – this group of Syracuse residents were from the Church and performed gospel music at the Apollo Theatre. In 1947, Mr. Seward leaves Florida on his Studebaker, bound for Syracuse, and makes an independent living for the next 50 years. Farming, education, and civic commitment.  His life is a testament to how curiosity, community commitment, and higher education provide the groundwork for a civil society. From a carpenter in Friendship (community) Florida to the Syracuse foundry. Portrait of Daniel Page, a long-time resident of the city of Syracuse and the founder of the Bethany Baptist Church. Born in Syracuse in 1933, his parents were from Louisiana and North Carolina. His aunt, Edith Raiser (sic) was the first Black woman to own an apartment building in Syracuse. Born in Syracuse in 1936, and lived in a segregated housing authority. Nellie King Freeman and Josephine King Chisholm (infant) are the grandmother and aunt of Syracuse resident Vernita King.  This photo was taken in Tuskegee Alabama around 1916. She arrived in Syracuse in 1930. 12 natives of Syracuse, New York.  His father was born in Panama; his mother was born in Syracuse and is part of the Durby (sic) family. This is a clipping from the Syracuse Herald-Journal describing the first exhibit done by the Black History Preservation Project – a project of Syracuse University. The military and higher education brings the couple from Ohio to Atlanta, Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, and finally to Syracuse.

This project has collected much more information than what is shown in this exhibit and therefore the exhibits will periodically change. Please visit the site again. Thank you.


African Americans in Syracuse:

From the First Great Migration to the 15th Ward

Throughout American history intranational migrations have usually been the result of groups of people seeking work and economic opportunity. This was the case for African Americans who left the American South in early Twentieth Century America. Although some emancipated and runaway slaves had left the South as early as the 1700s to head North, the first mass migration: the period referred to as “The First Great Migration” refers to the period from 1916 to 1930, when large numbers of African Americans headed for America’s major industrial centers to find work. (Schomburg Center, 3/21/2011) African Americans “…were attracted to the North largely through the great demand for labor which had been made a fact by the departure of thousands of [European immigrants] to serve their respective countries in the Great War. The Negro migration stream began flowing in the spring of 1916, reached its highest mark in 1917, and, even though much diminished, coursed on through 1918 up to the signing of the armistice. With the occurrence of this event the need for Negro labor became considerably less acute, thus causing a decided dwindling of the movement, but not a sudden stoppage of it. (Henderson, 1921) This led to a situation where black laborers were working alongside white laborers. When people are forced to work together they tend to come to the realization that there are really only two types of people in the world: those who get things done and those who don’t. Working alongside black laborers in the factories of the American North many soon realized that there were plenty of black men and women who knew how to get things done.

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