Black History Month

African American history is New York State history. This year a special exhibition, The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation, is the centerpiece of our observance of Black History Month. This exhibition will be on view from February 13 to March 3. It was created in partnership with the State Library and State Archives.

 Special in-person programming will also be offered at the Museum. Program details and a variety of educational resources are linked below.

NYSM Exhibitions and Programs

Moral Arc to Freedom

Exhibition: The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation

February 13 through March 3, 2024

The State Museum, Library, and Archives bring together two remarkable documents: Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and select pages from a speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered in New York City on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

In the Spotlight

NYSM Archaeologists excavating at the Thomas Powell Site

NYSM Archaeologist Featured in the Times Union for Research Identifying 19th-Century African American Farms

Check out this recent article in the Times Union to learn more about the work of NYSM Historical Archaeologist Michael Lucas and his team as they uncover new information about African American-owned farms in New York's Capital Region throughout the 1800s. 

On View at the NYSM

Timbuctoo: Gerrit Smith's Experiment

Timbuctoo: Gerrit Smith’s Experiment

Discover the history of Timbuctoo, a little-known Black settlement near Lake Placid, New York, established in 1846 by abolitionist Gerrit Smith in hopes of securing voting rights for the 3,000 black men who settled there. The exhibition features a short video by filmmaker Paul A. Miller about the insurmountable challenges its settlers faced as they fought to establish their unique community amidst New York's Adirondack mountains.

View Exhibit Information:

Related Resources for Educators:
CTLE (from WMHT):

Consider the Source (from NYS Archives):

Black Harlem Exhibit

Black Capital: Harlem in the 1920s

Discover the rich and diverse culture of Harlem, New York, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Museum Resources and Research

The Next Step to Freedom: An Educator's Guide for the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

The First Step to Freedom: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Educator’s Guide (PDF)

This guide was developed around President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, a draft of which is in the collections of the New York State Library.

The Fifteenth amendment, 1870 by Thomas Kelly

Fifteenth Amendment: Educational Activities

This online guide includes several object-inquiry activities. By exploring primary source materials around the topic of national enfranchisement of Black American men through the ratification of the 15th Amendment, students will develop a better understanding of the context surrounding this important step in America’s history.

Dr. Martin Luther King, JR in New York. September 12, 1962

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Address to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission

View information and download educator guides designed to provide strategies and resources for teaching about the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Video & History:

Educator's Guide:

Open Wounds: The Fifty-Year Legacy of the Attica Prison Uprising

Open Wounds: The Fifty-Year Legacy of the Attica Prison Uprising

This exhibition seeks to present the various viewpoints of the September 1971 Attica prison uprising and its aftermath. It will also discuss the wider impacts of the event and create a dialogue as to why this story is important fifty years later.

Exhibit Information & Video:

View/Download Panels (PDF):

Schuyler Flatts Facial Reconstruction

Schuyler Flatts Burial Ground

In 2005, the discovery of human remains during construction in Colonie, NY, offered a unique view of slavery in rural colonial America. Learn more about the history of the Schuyler Flatts Burial Ground.

Recommended Classroom Resource: 
Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery by archaeologist and children’s author, Lois Miner Huey, offers an informative and age appropriate look into the work of archaeologists as they “pieced together the truth” around the individuals whose human remains archaeologists discovered at Schuyler Flatts. Huey compares archaeological research with the historical record to show how different forms of evidence are needed to create a better picture of the lives of the people enslaved at Schuyler Flatts. Forgotten Bones helps younger readers learn about the enslavement of people in New York, the different types of primary resources available to learn about people who were enslaved, and how archaeology can help tell the story of those who were enslaved.

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow details the national story of the struggle for Black equality after the end of slavery and through the Jim Crow era. A link is provided to the Educator's Guide created by the New-York Historical Society website. 

Additional Resources from the Office of Cultural Education

Office of State History Logo

State-wide Black History Month Events

Discover Black History Month events happening across New York State with this comprehensive list from the Office of State History.

New York State Library Logo

New York State Library

Visit the State Library’s website to learn more about two new featured online programs for Black History Month 2024.

New York State Archives Logo

New York State Archives

For New York State Educators! Discover a continuously expanding collection of document-based activities created by the Archives Partnership Trust and teachers around the state through Consider the Source Online: Teaching with Historical Records.

For Black History Month, connect your students with ready-to-use archival resources and learning activities aligned with the NYS Learning Standards:

PBS Logo


Learn more about Black culture and history in New York State and beyond with PBS Learning Media. The variety of multimedia support materials for the classroom are suited for grades PK–12.

Stoneware pitcher made by African American potter Thomas Commeraw, Barclay’s Bank site, Manhattan, c. 1800–1815

Highlights from the Collections

Discover some of the archaeological and historical objects in our collections that illustrate the lives, struggles, and contributions of African Americans in New York.  View all »

NYSM Videos & CTLE

The Lives of Enslaved People through the Objects They Left Behind

Video Presentation: The Jessup Family: A Free African American Household in Early NY, 1790–1830

Panel Discussion: The Continuing Revolution for All New Yorkers

Every Prison Is Attica: A Short Documentary Film by David Kuhn

Highlights from the NYSM History Collection: Focus on African American-related Collections

Agency and Identity: Cherry Hill's Would-Be Sisters with The New York State Museum

About NYSM CTLE Credits

The New York State Museum is an approved provider of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE). Educators can earn 2 hours of CTLE credit by watching the webinar and completing the surveys linked below each video. Please allow up to two weeks to receive confirmation of completion. View all available CTLE from the NYSM. 

Field Trip to the NYSM: Evidence of Slavery and Freedom Buried Beneath the Floor


Jazz, by Romare Bearden,1980

Painter and collagist Romare Bearden (1911–1988) favored subjects related to jazz throughout his career. Influenced by music in his work, among other things, Bearden visually evokes the lively qualities of jazz in this image using brilliant color and layered forms. Created in 1980, this hand-colored etching titled Jazz is now part of the New York State Museum Collection.

Romare Bearden
Jazz, 1980
Hand-colored etching
NYSM Collection, H-1981.29.1

A New York Minute in History Podcast

New York Minute in History

Plymouth Freeman and Unfinished Revolutions

Explore the story of Plymouth Freeman, a black Patriot who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and the role the Declaration of Independence's principles of freedom and equality continue to play in disenfranchised communities.


A New York Minute in History

The Florence Farming Association

This episode tells the story of the Florence Farming and Lumber Association, a settlement of free African Americans in Oneida Count that began in 1846. The Association was the creation of abolitionists Gerrit Smith and Stephen Myers, and was developed on land given by Smith, who at the time was New York’s largest landowner. 


A New York Minute in History

Aaron Mossell and the Struggle to Integrate Lockport’s Schools

Discover the contributions of the Mossell family in western New York, and their efforts to successfully integrate the Niagara County city of Lockport’s public schools in the late 19th century — nearly 80 years before legal segregation ended nationwide.


New York Minute in History

Ithaca’s Tuskegee Airman

Discover the stories of New Yorkers who served in WWII as part of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, an all-Black group of pilots serving in the then still-segregated U.S. Army on the latest episode of A New York Minute In History. 

Listen to the Podcast: Ithaca’s Tuskegee Airman
Educators: Online CTLE Form for Tuskegee Airman


A New York Minute in History

Rapp Road and the Great Migration

Hosts Devin and Lauren delve into the history of Albany County’s Rapp Road Community, an African American neighborhood built by southern immigrants who moved north for a better life in the late 1920s.


New York Minute in History - Henry Johnson

Spirits of Sacrifice

Explore the lives of Henry Johnson and Tommy Hitchcock Jr., World War I heroes with ties to New York. Through interviews with family members, historians, and others, we follow Johnson and Hitchcock to the trenches and airfields of Europe and beyond. 


New York Minute in History

Slavery in New York and Resistance to It

This episode explores slavery in New York and specifically the resistance to the institution, including the Underground Railroad. Co-hosts Devin Lander and Lauren Roberts speak with area experts and tour a historic home in Albany that is living a new life as a museum depicting the history of its previous occupants.



Discovering Timbuctoo

Devin and Lauren dive into the history of Timbuctoo, an African American settlement founded by philanthropist Gerrit Smith in response to an 1846 law requiring all Black men to own $250 worth of property in order to vote in New York state. To counter this racist policy, Smith decided to give away 120,000 acres of land to 3,000 free, Black New Yorkers, hoping to enable them to move out of cities and work the land to its required value.

Articles, Publications, and Additional Research

Advancement Comes Slowly: African American Employment in Rochester, New York During the Great Migration

Science Tuesday: Uncovering Commeraw Stoneware

Science Tuesday: The Power of a Closer Look - Unearthing Personal Possessions of Enslaved African Americans

Collaborative field schools completed at Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany's Arbor Hill neighborhood

Slaves Rescued in Utica

Betsey Prince Site

The Archaeology of Slavery in the Hudson River Valley