5 Important Events In Black History That Happened In Buffalo
Black history is American History and Buffalo's contribution to this part of American History runs long and deep. There are so many events that have happened in Buffalo, people who have lived in Buffalo, and places within Buffalo that have made a significant impact on our country today.
Since 1964, when President Gerald Ford changed Black History Week to Black History Month, we've celebrated the cultural impact that has been made on American society by all of these important people and places. Being that we live with so many treasures in our community, I think we may take some of these places for granted. Let's strive in 2022 to take full advantage and learn everything buffalo has to offer, including its contribution to black history.
Here are five events that were important to Black History that occurred in Buffalo:
The National Convention of Colored Men
By the Mid-1800s, Buffalo had gained the reputation as being a center in the anti-slave movements of the North. As of the summer of 1843, the city had hosted its 2nd national convention to abolish slavery in the United States. The activity grew, and in August 1843 the city hosted two national anti-slavery conventions. One of those events, the National Convention of Colored Men, was held and featured a rousing speech by Frederick Douglass, during his speech, Douglass noted “For nearly a week I spoke every day in this old post office to audiences constantly increasing in numbers and respectability till the Baptist church was thrown open to me. When this became too small I went on Sunday into the open park and addressed an assembly of 4,000 persons."
Creation of the Niagara Movement
Early during the year 1905, W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe-Trotter started to organize a meeting and invited 59 prominent and notable lawyers and important community leaders to Buffalo, New York in order to discuss and organize opposition to racial segregation and disenfranchisement of Black American’s during that time. On July 11, 1905, 29 people showed up in Buffalo for the meeting. At the last minute, they moved the meeting just across the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario, and the Niagara Movement was born. The Niagara Movement was an important precursor to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which was later founded in 1909.
Establishment of the Buffalo Urban League
Created in 1927 by a group of diverse and interracial Buffalo citizens, including Mrs. Alfred Schoelkopf, J. Edward Nash, and others, the Buffalo Urban League was established to help address the employment, housing and social needs of African-Americans and other immigrants migrating from the South to the North during the great migration. William L. Evans served as the first Executive Director of The League and the organization worked to create job opportunities, housing, and encouragement to thousands of Black workers who now lived in Buffalo.
Desegregation of the Buffalo Public Schools
During the spring of 1972, a group of Buffalo citizens organized a class-action lawsuit against the City of Buffalo Public School System to end what they called an intentional system of disenfranchisement of Blacks in Buffalo by purposely running a segregated school system. By April 1976 Federal Judge John Curtin agreed with the citizens and ordered the Buffalo Public School to desegregate. This order came approximately 22 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court Decision. Judge Curtin stated that Buffalo had created and maintained segregated schools in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. It took until 1985 until the school system was considered fully integrated.
Desegregation of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority
By the summer of 1987, an investigation determined that 9 of Buffalo’s 27 Public Housing projects were more than 90% Black and/or Hispanic, while another 9 projects were more than 90% white. There were also several developments that had never had a non-white occupant. In addition to that, conditions in the majority of Black/Hispanic developments were in need of serious repair. During this same time, there were more than 3,000 people on the BMHA waiting list that were mostly Black and/or Hispanic even though there were more than 2,000 vacancies. These conditions led to another Class Action Lawsuit being filed to combat racism. That lawsuit, which was heard by Federal Judge John Curtin, ultimately led to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority agreeing to integrate and modernize Buffalo’s public housing system. It took until 1996 before the system was considered fully integrated.
What are some other Black history events that occurred in Buffalo that you know about?