Project aims to catalog ‘African American experience in Schenectady’

Members of the Refreshing Spring Young Adult Choir, under the direction of Sister Georgetta Dix, perform during inauguration ceremonies for the Schenectady City Council on Jan. 1, 1996. Historians are reaching out to churches and other organizations to help preserve and make available local Black history. Gazette file photo

Members of the Refreshing Spring Young Adult Choir, under the direction of Sister Georgetta Dix, perform during inauguration ceremonies for the Schenectady City Council on Jan. 1, 1996. Historians are reaching out to churches and other organizations to help preserve and make available local Black history. Gazette file photo

Got any Black history? If you do, and you want to preserve it and make it easily accessible for later generations, please contact Marietta Carr at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

The librarian/archivist at the society’s Grems-Doolittle Library since August of 2019, Carr is overseeing the African American Historical Records Project, an initiative of the New York State Archives.

“It’s a collaborative effort to uncover the historical records that were created by members of the African American community in Schenectady County,” said Carr, an Ohio native who went to Northeastern University in Boston before getting her master’s in library science at the University of Pittsburgh. “Our goal is to identify where those records are, what condition they are in and create a catalog so that future researchers will be better able to explore the African American experience in Schenectady.”

Carr is reaching out to churches, community organizations and the general public for help.

“We’re not just talking about text records,” she said. “We’re pretty open to all of the ways that our history is recorded, so we’re interested in photos, videos, music and art. There are a lot of different ways that people record their experiences, and we know there are all sorts of materials created in the course of living their lives.”

To help get the word out just in time for February and Black History Month, Carr recruited a handful of prominent Black citizens to serve on an advisory board. They include historical reenactor Walter Simpkins, former Hamilton Hill Arts Center director Miki Conn, county legislator Philip Fields, local businessman Johan Matthews, former Schenectady social studies teacher Sophia Delamar and community organizer William Rivas. Working with Carr and that group is Sarah Schmidt, director of Special Collections and Archives at Union College’s Schaefer Library.

Anyone looking for information on the African American Historical Records Project should contact Carr at the Schenectady County Historical Society at 518 374-0263, option 3, or email her at [email protected]

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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