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In 1980, Onondaga Community College Professor Barbara Davis set out to collect a variety of photographic and ephemeral materials that would document African-American life and history in the Syracuse area. The region was home many early abolitionists and civil rights advocates.
Established in 1918, the Dunbar Cener continues to serve the historically black community in thesouth side of Syracuse by offering a range of programs and community services. Early in its history, the Dunbar Center served as a support center for black families migrating north to take advantage of plentiful factory jobs, and more recently the center has shifted its focus to serve its community's evolving needs.