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. 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 Underground Railroad Education Center's annual public history conference Freedom Con is on April 1 to 3. This year's opening speaker is Pamela Newkirk, a professional journalist and former writer for Albany's Knickerbocker News. The conference will include tracks of various themes such as business, social justice and youth development.
Catch a Performance at a Local Performing Arts Venue
Running through February 20, catch Fly at Capital Repertory Theatre. Based on true events, Fly tells the inspiring story of the first African-American Army Air Corp fighters known as the Tuskegee Airmen through tap dancing and spoken word. Follow four courageous young Black American pilots as they train to fly combat aircrafts during World War II.
Every February, the Price Chopper Black History Month Step Show & HYP3st Dance Competition is held at the Palace Theatre. On Sunday, February 20 enjoy an afternoon of high energy performances from some of the best step teams from the Capital Region and beyond.
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. Tune into YouTube videos showcasing artifacts in the Museum's collection that relate to African American history in New York State and more. On February 17, tune into an encore presentation of The Lives of Enslaved People through the Objects They Left Behind with New York State Museum Curator of Historical Archaeology Dr. Michael Lucas and a panel of participants. Visiting in-person? Check out the exhibit, "Open Wounds: The Fifty-Year Legacy of the Attica Prison Uprising," on display through April 3, 2022.
Support Black-Owned Restaurants & Black-Owned Businesses
Support Black-owned restaurants and businesses in the Capital Region all year long! Many Black-owned restaurants are open for takeout, delivery or limited indoor dining. Currently open for takeout only, 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, Albany's go-to spot for soul food and southern-style cuisine, is open for curbside pickup and delivery. Experience the Capital Region's first mobile app-based food hall, The Cloud Food Hall. Get your sweet fix with decadent, handcrafted chocolate covered fruit from TieBerrySweets or booze-infused cakes from GreatExbaketations.
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 kids, with in-store and online shopping available. 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:
A Guide to Black-Owned Businesses and Black-Led Organizations (Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy)
Black-Owned Businesses in Downtown (Downtown Albany BID)
Black-Owned Businesses in the Capital Region (Instagram: @brit_ny)
50+ Black-Owned Capital Region Businesses (Instagram: @yelpalbany)
Attend Special Events with the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region
Celebrate Black History Month with special events hosted by the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region (AACCCR)! Every Friday in February, AACCCR is screening a movie or documentary that celebrates positive representations and impactful contributions of Black cinema. On Thursday, February 17 and Thursday, February 24, donate items to the Family Clothing Drive to help families and individuals in our community. On Monday February 28, join resident artists Mahodd Harvin, Rayna Weaver and Cyree Bowen for a presentation of a join collection of works inspired by Black history, literature, symbolism and epigraphs.
See a Black History Month Exhibit at the Empire State Plaza
There is a special exhibit featuring selections from the New York State Harlem Art Collection on view at the Empire State Plaza North Concourse for Black History Month. The New York State Harlem Art Collection, established in 1976, features over 100 pieces of art from predominantly Black and Hispanic New York City area artists. The collection features works completed during the last century, highlighting the Harlem Renaissance period. See the exhibit from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, all seven days of the week.
Dive into Albany's Black History at Historic Sites & Monuments
Ten Broeck Mansion is kicking off (Extra)Ordinary: Images of Everyday Life in Albany, a free behind-the-scenes virtual exploration of seemingly ordinary images within the collections, on February 25. The first session titled, "Hannah's Family: African American Family Identity in Albany", is in honor of Black History Month. This online series will explore identity, emotions, values, and politics, all through images which reveal rich and complex stories. Plus, save the date for Ten Broeck Mansion's Juneteenth Celebration Weekend on June 18 to 19 with free admission and family-friendly programs.
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.