February marks Black History Month in the United States. This year, let Black History Month serve as a reminder to support Black-owned businesses and learn about Black history all year long. Scroll on to learn how to celebrate Black history in Albany during the month of February and beyond. 

Visit the Underground Railroad Education Center

During the month of February, schedule a tour of the Stephen & Harriet Myers Residence, operated by the Underground Railroad Education Center (UREC). This historic site reflects Underground Railroad history from the perspective of Stephen Myers, a man formally enslaved, and from the perspective of Black abolitionists. Stephen & Harriet Myers were the central Underground Railroad activists in the Capital Region during the 1850s and welcomed freedom seekers to their home. Before visiting, call (518) 621-7793 to schedule a tour on Monday through Friday from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM or Saturday from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. 

The UREC's annual public history conference Freedom Con takes place virtually every 4th Saturday of the month through October. This year's February speaker is Amy Godine an Adirondack historian who has written about marginalized Adirondack communities since 1988. 

Stop By Neighbors for Neighbors Story Hour at the Capital Repertory Theatre 

Bring your little ones to a story hour at the Capital Repertory Theatre. Designed for students in primary grades, this program features stories exploring culture and diversity written by and for members of the BIPOC community. Enjoy a story hour each month through August 2024 with free snacks and accompanying activities. The program is led by professional actress and elementary school teacher Barbara Howard. 


Share Your Story with the New York State Library

This month as a part of the New York State Library's Personal History Initiative the library is seeking local stories of Black individuals in New York State who've inspired their loved ones or community. Click here to share a story about a Black artist, writer, scientist, friend or family member who's inspired you!

Throughout February, the library will also host a series of events to celebrate Black History Month. Visit the 7th floor of the library to view their special exhibit Understanding Lincoln Through Primary Source Documents featuring selected sources on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. Attend their webinar Lincoln, the Founding, and an America Worth Saving on February 15 at 12 PM. Then on February 21 attend their webinar "A Dreamer with a Tiny Spark" E. J. Josey Transforms the Modern Library Profession focusing on E. J. Josey, former president of the American Library Association who successfully drafted a resolution preventing discrimination against Black librarians in state library associations. 

Pick Up a Book from Stuyvesant Plaza's Little Free Library

Stuyvesant Plaza is celebrating Black History Month by featuring stories surrounding Black individuals and communities in their little free library. Grab a book and a celebratory bookmark at the free book spot between Primal and Rad Soap Co. 


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Support Black-Owned Restaurants & Black-Owned Businesses

Support Black-owned restaurants and businesses in the Capital Region all year long! Umana Yana Restaurant specializes in comfort food from around the world and is the only spot in the Capital Region that serves up Ethiopian fare every night.  Allie B's Cozy Kitchen is Albany's go-to spot for soul food and southern-style cuisine. Get your sweet fix with decadent, handcrafted chocolate covered fruit from TieBerrySweets, booze-infused cakes from GreatExbaketations, or delicious bakery items and mouth-watering charcuterie boards from Nelly's Treats.

Nelly's Treats also hosts a series of baking classes for children and adults. Join them for their class: I Am... Black History Month Inspired on February 24 at 11 AM. Open to all ages, make I AM cookies combining different colors and hearts designed to honor unique backgrounds and embrace self love. 

In addition to restaurants, the Capital Region is home to an array of Black-owned businesses. Located in downtown Albany, Fresh & Fly Clothing sells clothes and accessories for men, women and children. Based in Cohoes, Tech Valley Hospitality Shuttle has all your transportation needs covered, from morning commutes to weddings and special events to group travel. Root3d, located at 165 S Pearl Street, is a wellness center, designed to recharge the mind, body and spirit, with a focus on BIPOC communities.

Lists of Local Black-Owned Businesses: 
Black-Owned Restaurant & Bakeries in Albany (Discover Albany)
Black-Owned Businesses & Organizations in Albany (Discover Albany)
A Guide to Black-Owned Businesses and Black-Led Organizations (Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy)
Black-Owned Businesses in Downtown (Downtown Albany BID)
50+ Black-Owned Capital Region Businesses (Instagram: @yelpalbany)

Join the City of Albany in a Celebration for Black History Month

Stop by the Arbor Hill Community Center on February 17 for a Black History Month celebration from the City of Albany Department of Recreation. This fun-filled event will feature local performers, poets, dancers. choirs and vendors.

Catch a Performance at a Local Performing Arts Venue

During the first week of February, the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY presents The Mountaintop by Katori Hall performed at the Capital Repertory Theatre. In this reimagination of the night before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader is visited by a mysterious stranger with a surprising message. This leads Dr. King to confront his destiny and legacy to his people. The show runs through February 11.

Beyond the month of February, grab tickets for shows exploring Black history: Henry Johnson: Ballad of a Forgotten Hero and Back to the Past performed at the Capital Repertory Theatre.

Henry Johnson: Ballad of a Forgotten Hero explores the story of Albany war hero, Henry Johnson who fought heroically during WWI with the all-Black New York National Guard 369th Infantry Regiment. The show will be performed on March 9 at 11 AM.

Children ages 9 to 14 are invited to enjoy a performance of Back to the Past running June 8 and June 9. The free play takes a group of children on an adventure through history to meet famous African American achievers.

Explore the New York State Museum's Collections 

In recognition of Black History Month, the New York State Museum developed a resource page for students, educators and the general public. Dive into online educator guides, museum research, access to digital collections and more.

At the center of the museum's 2024 Black History Month programming is The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation. This temporary exhibit, on view February 13 to March 3, features the only surviving copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln's own hand alongside pages from a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the centennial of the Proclamation. Join the New York State Museum on February 15 at 7 PM to mark the opening of this exhibit.

Celebrate the Jazz Era with Jazz in the Galleries on February 22 from 1 PM to 3 PM! Museum visitors of all ages are welcome to enjoy live jazz music played throughout the galleries.

Also on view at the museum is Black Capital: Harlem in the 1920s celebrating the rich and diverse culture of Harlem, a flourishing center for Black culture, art and music.

Attend Black History Month Events Hosted by the New York State Writers Institute  

The New York State Writers Institute is honoring Black History Month with a series of events throughout February. Join them for a pair of conversations with National Book Award for Fiction finalist Aaliyah Bilal who's debut story collection Temple Folk (2023) offers a portrait of the lived experiences of Black Muslims. Then attend the Institute's conversation with Adjoa Asamoah who among many accomplishments developed the legislative strategy for the CROWN Act movement with the goal to make hairstyle discrimination illegal nationwide.

The New York State Writers Institute is also hosting The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation in conjunction with the New York State Museum. The event will feature New York State Poet Patricia Spears Jones among other speakers to mark the launch of a new temporary exhibit. 

Celebrate Black History Month at the Empire State Plaza

Visit the New York State Capitol Building at the Empire State Plaza and view their exhibition 1964: New Yorkers Who Shaped History on display through the end of February. This exhibit showcases New Yorkers who paved the way for equality sixty years after the passing of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The Plaza is also hosting a free, Black History Month Celebration on February 14 from 10 AM to 2 PM. Enjoy a craft show, vendors, performances and delicious food from Allie B's Cozy Kitchen for purchase.

Dive into Albany's Black History at Historic Sites & Monuments

View Ten Broeck Mansion's online exhibition (Extra)Ordinary: Images of Everyday Life in Albany. The videos offer a behind-the-scenes exploration of seemingly ordinary images within the collections. The first session titled, "Hannah's Family: African American Family Identity in Albany", is in honor of Black History Month. The series explores identity, emotions, values, and politics, all through images which reveal rich and complex stories. The Albany County Historical Society also recently received a grant from the National Archives. This grant will allow the organization to locate and study documents related to African Americans in Albany from 1644 to 1817 and help tell stories that are often untold. 

Albany Rural Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark site, is filled with stories of Albany's African American history. In 2020, the long lost headstone of Reverend Nathaniel Paul was rediscovered by Friends of Albany Rural Cemetery Historian Paula Lemire and gravestone restorer Christopher White. Rev. Nathanial Paul was the first African American minister in Albany and was the founding pastor of what would become the First African Baptist Church. Stephen and Harriet Myers are cemetery residents, as well as their descendant William “Beau” Freeman, who fought alongside Sgt. Henry Johnson in the Harlem Hellfighters. Albany Rural is also the final resting place for Kenmore Hotel founder Adam Blake, whose formerly enslaved father was the head of the household at the Van Rensselaer Manor. Follow Albany Rural Cemetery on Facebook for more fascinating stories. 

One of Albany's greatest war heroes, Sgt. Henry Johnson, has a monument in Albany's Henry Johnson Park and Washington Park. Henry Johnson was an African American U.S. Army soldier who fought heroically in the 369th Infantry Regiment, called the Harlem Hellfighters, in World War I. His heroic actions were recognized by the French with a Croix de guerre. Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama posthumously in 2015. Learn more about Sgt. Henry Johnson by downloading a free copy of a “Medal of Honor: Henry Johnson” graphic novel from the Association of the United States Army or by tuning into WMHT's documentary on the local hero.