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Black New Yorkers, Overlooked, Until Now

by admin on February 10, 2019
Black New Yorkers, Overlooked, Until Now
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It’s Black History Month, and in New York, history is still being made.

The new attorney general, Letitia James, is the first black woman elected to statewide office in New York.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the majority leader of the State Senate, is not just the first African-American woman but the first woman to lead any part of the State Legislature.

There are countless others whose earlier contributions went underappreciated. The Times has been telling their stories in its Overlooked Project, obituaries of influential figures who should have been more fully recognized.

Here are a few snapshots:

CreditCollection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
CreditCollection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Gladys Bentley was Harlem’s most famous lesbian performer in the 1930s.

“Bentley sang her bawdy, bossy songs in a thunderous voice, dipping down into a froglike growl or curling upward into a wail,” according to her belated Times obit.

“She often confronted male entitlement and sexual abuse in her lyrics,” the obit added, “and declared her own sexual independence.”

She died in 1960.

CreditKansas State Historical Society

CreditKansas State Historical Society

A hundred years before Rosa Parks, there was Elizabeth Jennings.

She won a discrimination lawsuit in 1855 against a Manhattan trolley company that wouldn’t let her ride in a whites-only car.

Jennings, who was also an educator, died in 1901.

CreditSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

CreditSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

Philip A. Payton Jr., a real estate mogul, helped make Harlem a black mecca.

In 1904, a new subway line opened to 145th Street, making Upper Manhattan more accessible.

That year, Payton incorporated the Afro-American Realty Company “to help remake Harlem as a home for black citizens who faced discrimination in housing,” according to his Overlooked obit.

You can read more about these pioneers, and others, here.

The archive includes a copy of the Affordable Care Act and a note from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.CreditAnnie Tummino/Queens College

The archive includes a copy of the Affordable Care Act and a note from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.CreditAnnie Tummino/Queens College

The Times’s Luis Ferré Sadurní reports:

It’s been more than six months since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley in an upset that shook the Democratic establishment.

As he considers new job opportunities (video-game industry lobbyist, perhaps?), Mr. Crowley, 56, has been busy clearing out his desk.

Today, he will donate his congressional and personal archives to Queens College, his alma mater.

The 15-box collection, which will be made available for research, includes a copy of the Affordable Care Act, along with a pen used to sign it and a handwritten note from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Other highlights include the proclamation of Assemblyman Joseph Crowley Day in Queens — signed by Claire Shulman when she was the borough president — and the championship belt from a 2014 boxing competition in Washington. (Mr. Crowley was not the victor of the belt, but a supporter of the charity event, held to support at-risk youth.)

The donation will take place at the college’s Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library at 11 a.m.

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