LONG ISLAND, NY – Long Island has a rich and varied culture, all at once steeped in history and progressive ideals. In recognition of Black History Month, Discover Long Island takes a look at some of the places you can visit to learn more about famous African-American residents.
Two new museums/historic sites are currently under construction recognizing the role that two very different African-Americans played in history: The John Coltrane House, where the jazz great lived and wrote some of his most famous tunes; and the Pyrrhus Concer House, where a 19th century whaler and respected member of the Southampton community lived.
The Coltrane home in Dix Hills has been saved from an impending demolition and was purchased by the Town of Huntington recently and then given to the “Friends of the Coltrane Home,” a NY State non-profit organization founded specifically to support the home. The organization is headed by Ravi Coltrane and members of the Coltrane family.
American jazz musician, John Coltrane, lived here on a quiet residential street during the last years of his life. In his home here, he composed his greatest work, “A Love Supreme” as well as all of his last works, considered by many to be his greatest and most stirring.
The Friends of the Coltrane Home are working to fulfill John and Alice Coltranes’ vision of goodwill and connection by sharing his music, and creating an inspirational museum and archives celebrating the Coltranes’ music and influences. The museum also seeks to provide an outreach center for music education in order to preserve and perpetuate the Coltrane legacy. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. No date has been given yet for its opening, but the Friends group holds an annual concert on Coltrane Day, usually in July.
From a very different time and era, Pyrrhus Concer’s former home on Pond Lane in Southampton is going to be rebuilt on its original spot for visitors to learn about the 19th century African American whaler. Concer was a member of a crew that saved stranded Japanese sailors, making him one of the first Americans, and perhaps the first person of color, to visit Japan, where entry was restricted at the time. He later resided in Southampton Village and was a respected member of the community who once operated a ferry service on Lake Agawam, not far from his home.
The planned museum will include the home itself as well as a visitor center, amphitheater, walkways and a water feature that includes ponds and waterfalls. The village hired Chaleff & Rogers Architects of Water Mill to draw up the plans. All of the artifacts from the home were salvaged before the private owners knocked it down. Much of the framing and materials were also salvaged, and in a very unique twist, Southampton purchased the property from the owners and is now working to rebuild the house. A completion date hasn’t been announced.
You can learn about another prominent African American named Jupiter Hammon, who lived at the Henry Lloyd Manor House in Lloyd Harbor and is recognized as the first published African American writer.
Hammon was born in 1711 on Lloyd Neck and his father, Obadiah, was a slave belonging to Henry Lloyd and his wife, Rebecca. From the beginning Jupiter was close to the Lloyd family. He lived in the Manor house with the family, and went to school with the Lloyd children. This closeness is further evidenced by the fact that he is referred to as “brother Jupiter” in later correspondence between the Lloyd sons and their father.
Jupiter worked alongside Henry in Henry’s business, and he was often sent to New York City to negotiate trade deals. Hammon was also a deeply religious man. His first published poem, which appeared in 1761, was entitled “An Evening Prayer,” and it trumpeted Jupiter’s belief in God and the Bible. Henry Lloyd died in 1763, and Jupiter went to live with Henry’s son, Joseph at the Joseph Lloyd Manor House. Joseph Lloyd was a patriot during the Revolutionary War, and when the British captured New York and confiscated his land he fled to Connecticut, taking Jupiter with him. When the war ended they returned to the Manor, where Jupiter continued to write poetry and prose.
Jupiter went on to become a leader in the African American community. In 1787 he delivered a speech to the African Society of New York City entitled “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York.”
Another ‘locally famous’ resident is Samuel Ballton, “The Pickle King.” Ballton came to Greenlawn in 1873where he was as a farmer for one of the town’s wealthiest landowners. Later he was employed as a shareholder for the Gardiner family, owners of the largest farm in Greenlawn, and gained much notoriety by growing record numbers of cucumbers and cabbages. He was nicknamed Greenlawn’s “Pickle King,” as a result of growing and processing 1.5 million pickles in one season, according to the Huntington Historical Society. Ballton was able to acquire some capital as a buying agent for a large
Boston pickle house. With his own capital and loans from white neighborhood farmers, Ballton began
to buy land and build houses near the new railroad line and he became a successful landowner and entrepreneur. He is still remembered in the village as an outstanding founding member of the Greenlawn Community.
Each year, the Greenlawn Historical Society holds a Pickle Festival at the John Gardiner farmstead where the history of pickle making continues to this day.
You can also learn more about African American history and culture at the The African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead, which offers insightful and inspiring themed tours of its collections, led by trained Museum Guides and specially designed to encompass varied interests. The African American Museum offers a variety of programs for visitors of all ages and backgrounds and provides a broad range of enriching, entertaining and learning experiences for the Long Island community.
Activities include guided tours, reading and discussion programs, film screening, hands-on arts and crafts activities, archeological research and themed workshops. Also at the location, the Genealogical Society provides genealogical research consultations (by appointment). Workshops and lectures on basic to advanced research are conducted quarterly first Saturdays in September, December, March and June.
Throughout the Island various events will be held during Black History Month. Below are several of the noteworthy events and a full listing of things to do can be found at: www.discoverlongisland.com
Suffolk County Historical Museum
Saturday, Feb. 11th, 2017 – 1:00PM
Although Pyrrhus Concer is locally remembered as a freed slave who earned his freedom—as well as a whaleman, philanthropist, respected community member, and religious man—his historic homestead in Southampton became the center of a heated two-year battle among local preservationists, planning board members, and developers. This visual presentation will focus on the community outreach effort, archaeological investigations, and plans for the future at the Pyrrhus Concer site as a cultural and education center. Members Free; Non-Members $5. Includes light refreshments and admission to current exhibits. RSVP Requested: 631-727-2881 x100.
Suffolk County Historical Museum
Thursday, Feb. 16th, 2017 – 6:00PM
For beginning and advanced genealogists alike with an interest in researching African American family histories, this workshop will cover sources of information, interpretation of research data, incorporating new data and drawing conclusions, planning “next steps,” and organizing records. In addition, the illustrated presentation will feature live demonstrations of some of the available online research databases and tips for searching them. Members $15; Non-Members $20. Includes handouts and light refreshments. Registration Required: 631-727-2881 x100.
WMHO Educational and Cultural Center
Select dates between Feb. 1st-Feb. 28th, 2017
Long Island’s history comes alive with an interactive theatrical performance based on oral history. Experience this live, on-stage drama about the links between the Underground Railroad, secret codes hidden in quilts and the strength of the human spirit in the struggle for freedom. Phone: 631-751-2244
St. Joseph’s College
Feb. 9th, 2017 From: 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
The Office of Multicultural Student Life at SJC Long Island celebrates Black History Month with speaker Ken E. Nwadike, Jr., peace activist, video journalist and founder of the Free Hugs Project. His “Free Hugs Project” is a creative and interactive program that engages students in conversations of understanding and compassion as opposed to hatred and racism. 631-687-4593
Long Island Children’s Museum
Feb. 19th, 2017 From 1:30PM to 3:00PM
Go on a journey through time as you view April Marius’ collection of rare African American dolls at the Long Island Children’s Museum. April will share the folklore and facts behind her treasured collection. Let these dolls inspire you as you create your own piece of black history in our Dolls of Color program. 516-224-5800
Morris Meeting Room in the Rogers Memorial Library
Feb. 22nd, 12:00PM
The history of slavery is largely anonymous and the stories of the enslaved are often relegated to a footnote in history. Because of their proximity to American presidents, the histories of those enslaved by these men are well documented, although not widely known. Through vivid portraits we will learn about their daily lives and how they made sense of their existence as human beings. We will meet a Revolutionary War hero; relive dramatic escapes; become acquainted with the first African American celebrity athletes; and attend an important White House dinner. Their stories are sure to inform and inspire you. Co-sponsored by the Southampton Historical Museum and Rogers Memorial Library. 631-283-0774 x 523.