African American Community of Broome County

Collection Owner:
Cover Image:
Serving food at the Broome County Urban League Festival
Serving food at the Broome County Urban League Festival - Image Source

Collection Facts


Historical Context

In the 20th century, millions of Black Americans moved from the South to the bustling cities of the Midwest and Northeast in search of good jobs and housing, a trend known as the Great Migration.  While most upstate New York cities like Albany, Syracuse and Rochester saw a large increase in their African-American population in the 1940s and 1950s, the Binghamton area did not.

Broome County, equivalent to the Binghamton-Endicott-Johnson City Standard Metropolitan Area, had 807 nonwhites in 1940 (out of 165,749 people) and still only 1000 by 1957 (out of around 210,000), according to a 1958 study by the New York State Commission Against Discrimination.  In contrast, Albany, Syracuse and Rochester saw their nonwhite populations double or triple over these two decades.  

That same 1958 generalized that the nonwhite population of Broome County was well-established and saw very few families moving away.  The African-American community was tight-knit and concentrated in a few blocks of Binghamton's Seventh Ward.  Those two blocks were torn down in the 1950s as part of so-called "Urban Renewal," causing the community members to be physically dispersed throughout the area, wherever they were able to find housing. 

Scope of Collection

This collection includes photographs of everyday places, events and gatherings of families and friends, as well as notable events like protests arranged by the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).