Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History
by Sally Svenson
With an Afterword by Alice Paden Green
Traces the extensive but little-known history of blacks in the Adirondacks.
“Svenson’s work is filled with thought-provoking and evocative stories of African Americans in the Adirondacks. The book’s restoration of their memory is a significant feat. Fascinating and richly researched.”—Graham Hodges, author of David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City
“A comprehensive collection of information about blacks in the region over a century-long period. . . . An excellent resource and starting point for researchers interested in this topic.”—Myra Armstead, author of “Lord, Please Don’t Take Me in August”: African Americans in Newport and Saratoga Springs, 1870–1930
“Sally E. Svenson compiles the stories of Blacks in the Adirondacks in a thoroughly researched and interesting read, enriched by a poignant afterword from activist Alice Paden Green.” —Niki Kourofsky, Adirondack Life Magazine
“Svenson’s goal is to shed light on this relatively unmapped corner of Adirondack history. In this she succeeds admirably. The tale is often not a pretty one, but in the future no one will be able to talk or write about Adirondack social history without consulting this encyclopedic book.” —Philip Terrie, Adirondack Explorer
The story of the many African Americans who settled in or passed through this rural, mountainous region of northeastern New York State. In the area for a variety of reasons, some were lifetime residents, while others were there for a few years or months—as summer employees, tuberculosis patients, or in connection with full– or part–time occupations in railroading, the performing arts, and baseball.
From blacks who settled on land gifted to them by Gerrit Smith, a prosperous landowner and fervent abolitionist, to those who worked as waiters in resort hotels, Svenson chronicles their rich and varied experiences, with an emphasis on the 100 years between 1850 and 1950. Many experienced racism and isolation in their separation from larger black populations; some found a sense of community in the scattered black settlements of the region. In this first definitive history, Svenson gives voice to the many blacks who spent time in the Adirondacks and sheds light on their challenges and successes in this remote region.
Sally E. Svenson is an independent scholar.
She is the author of Adirondack Churches: A History of Design and Building.
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