Resources on African American History in the Office of Cultural Education

The New York State Museum, New York State Library, and New York State Archives, all acquire materials documenting the African American presence in New York State since the seventeenth century.  These three institutions, all part of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education, make these materials available to the public in a variety of ways including public exhibits, on-site viewing of original documents and artifacts, loan of published and microfilmed materials, online digital collections, teacher workshops, and programs for students and the public.

New York State Museum

  • Facial reconstructions of seven African American adults from an unmarked slave cemetery in Albany, 18th century
  • Archeological artifacts from a free African American family on Long Island, late 18th century
  • Facial reconstructions of four African American adults from the Albany Almshouse Cemetery, late 19th-early 20th centuries
  • Collection of artifacts depicting slavery in Montgomery County, c. 1806
  • Artifacts from the family of Bromley Hoke of Montgomery County.  Hoke served in the Massachusetts 54th regiment during the Civil War. 
  • E.L. Henry’s depictions of African Americans (oil sketches, pencil sketches, and paintings), c.1880s.
  • Prints depicting the New York City Draft Riots, 1863
  • Broadsides and posters for minstrel shows, early 20th century
  • African American vaudeville advertisements, early 20th century
  • African American theater troop posters, early 20th century
  • Ephemera relating to the Girl Friends, Inc. and their families. The Girl Friends, Inc. is a 20th century African American women's organization

For more information please contact the State Museum at (518) 474-5842 or email jlemak@mail.nysed.gov.

New York State Library

  • Published books, newspapers, magazines, microfilms can be used on-site; Circulating items may be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan or New York State residents may borrow items directly.  Information can be found in the Library’s online catalog, Excelsior: http://nysl.nysed.gov.
  • Bibliographies such as  An African-American Bibliography: The Arts: Selected Sources from the Collections of the New York State Library  [LIB 132-4 AFRAB 90-8853], and An African-American Bibliography: Education [LIB 132-4 AFRAB 93-475], and handouts like Tracing African American Family History, that list selected resources for researchers and family historians exploring African-American families.
  • Full onsite access to electronic databases including The African American Experience which provides access to over 300 titles and African-American Newspapers: the 19th Century (part of Accessible Archives). 
  • Unpublished documents including letters, diaries, family papers, business and church records, rare books and periodicals, musical scores and selected ephemera such as broadsides are available in Manuscripts and Special Collections.  Researchers may examine materials such as The Northern Star and Freemen’s Advocate (N071 fA32n), an abolitionist newspaper published in Albany in the 1840s by Stephen Myers and his wife Harriet;  Emma Waite’s diary (BD18715) which covers one year (1870) of the life of an African-American woman who was employed as a hired maid and held seasonal jobs at resort hotels in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; or The Hoke Family Papers (SC18697) that documents the lives of the Hokes, an African-American family living in Canajoharie, during the period from 1870-1956.
  • Selected African-American Web Sites - one of the Library's Internet Bibliographies.

For more information please contact the State Library:

New York State Archives

  • From the Dutch settlement of New Netherland in the early seventeenth century to the most recent session of the State Legislature, the history of New York State is documented in the records preserved in the New York State Archives. While many of the 100,000 cubic feet of records in the Archives contain information on individuals of various racial or ethnic groups, there are several dozen record series in the Archives that provide accessible information on African American residents of New York during the past 350 years. These record series pertain to several broad subject areas: slavery and emancipation, military service, confinement in State institutions, performing arts, political radicalism, human rights, and education.
  • Information on some of the more relevant records is available in the New York State Archives Information Leaflet No. 8 Records Relating to African Americans. It is available in the 11th floor Research Room in the Cultural Education Center or by clicking on Peoples/Groups and Culture in the online Research Room at www.archives.nysed.gov.
  • Archives holdings are searchable through Excelsior, the online catalog shared by the New York State Library and  the New York State Archives at www.archives.nysed.gov.
  • Records in the State Archives may be used at the Archives’ research room.  Certain record series have been microfilmed by the State Archives, and the film may be borrowed on inter-library loan or purchased.

For more information please contact the State Archives at (518) 474-8955 or email archref@mail.nysed.gov.


If you would like to donate African American-related materials, please contact the appropriate institution. 

Last Updated: May 19, 2009