Black Legacy Association of Columbia County Collection
The library’s Black Legacy Association of Columbia County (BLACC) Oral History Project collection contains the documents, images, video, and audio from a broad-based program undertaken by BLACC, which was formed in the late 1980s under the umbrella of the Columbia County RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) through Columbia Opportunities, Inc. The agencies which made up BLACC were RSVP, World Wide Mission for Jesus Team (formally called the Black Ministers Alliance), the County Museum, the county chapter of the NAACP, Columbia Preservation, Columbia-Greene Community College and the Minority Alliance at the college.
The group formed from these organizations wanted to show a "hidden legacy of Columbia County history" - the contributions made by the Black Community from slavery to present time. “While many later generations of Blacks migrated to the county there are still descendants of the original slaves living in this Hudson River Community…. [Black residents] helped to build it, [form] it, [fought] for it, [worked] in the whaling industry, at the iron mines in Ancram, in the many brickyards and prayed for it in their churches….The historical record of how the Blacks came here, what they did, how they lived, how they died, where they went to school, their social customs, their war efforts, their community involvement, their enclaves, their churches, their cemeteries have never been explored and researched in depth.” - from a NY Council for the Humanities grant application by the RSVP organization.
The project included a series of oral history interviews and the publication of a curriculum guide “Been Laborin’ Here All These Long Years AND Fruits of Our Labors, African American History and Culture in Columbia County, New York” based on interviews and research. The physical collection, including photos and documents, can be viewed at the Hudson Area Library History Room.
Materials were donated by Columbia Opportunities, Inc. to the library in 2018. All of the material in this collection was assembled by the Columbia County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), sponsored by Columbia Opportunities, Incorporated (COI). RSVP volunteers, who formed the Black Legacy Association of Columbia County included: Vivian Austin, Ella Barksdale, Jessie Cooper, Bernice Cross, Edward Cross, Helen Dago Barreiro, Phobe Eaton, Dandridge Harris, James Kerr, Gilbert Lewis, Ethel Loveless, Julia Minisee, Eloise Moore, Marie Parker, Annie Peden, Calvin Pitcher, Otelia Rainer, Grace Schwartzman, Leslie Stiles, Marion Van Ness, Selma Van Ness, William Van Ness, Annabel Waters, Bernard Weisberger, and Beulah Whitbeck. Marcella Beigel, the COI RSVP Director devoted much time and attention to the creation of this unique and inspirational project. In 2019, the library was awarded an Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a collaborative project with Oral History Summer School (OHSS) to create interplay between this collection, the library’s oral history collection, and the 500+ life histories in the OHSS collection.
Scope of Collection
This collection includes images of photos from the interviewees and from the research conducted as well as documents related to the administration of the project and examples of the primary sources they found during their research.