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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Celebrate Black History in Tompkins County

Fri, February 03, 2023 1:40 PM | Anonymous


Black Americans have lived in Tompkins County since the late 1700s. The first recorded Black resident of the county was Richard Loomis, who was brought to the region enslaved by Robert McDowell in 1788. In 1820 the Black population of Ithaca numbered only nine people, although more enslaved Black people lived and worked in the rural regions of the county.

Slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827. The free Black population in the City of Ithaca began to grow in the early 1800s as more families and individuals self-liberated from slavery in the Southern states and traveled North on the Underground Railroad, which had multiple stations and checkpoints in Tompkins County. With the addition of passengers from the Underground Railroad, Ithaca's Black population grew to over 200 by 1860, and the Black neighborhoods of Southside and along Wheat Street (now Cleveland Avenue (Zoom in on HistoryForge to see all the Black households along Wheat Street in 1900)) became established in the community.

Tompkins County has been home to many trailblazing Black Americans, including: Civil Rights leader Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Ruth Carol Taylor, the first Black flight attendant in the United States, and many more phenomenal leaders of the Black community locally, nationally, and globally. We encourage everyone to engage with and learn about the rich history of Black residents in Tompkins County.

Discover more stories, learning resources, videos, and oral histories at

Research visits to explore our Black History in Tompkins County archival collections can be scheduled by contacting
#TompkinsHistory #BlackHistory #BlackHistoryMonth #AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth #bhm #BlackHistory365

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Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Territory


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