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“The Black Woods” Book Talk

April 30 @ 7:00 pm 9:00 pm EDT

Join author Amy Godine for a book talk on her most recent work, The Black Woods: Pursuing Racial Justice on the Adirondack Frontier. The presentation will be followed by an audience Q&A.

The Black Woods: Pursuing Racial Justice on the Adirondack Frontier (2023, Cornell University Press) chronicles the dramatic history of Black pioneers in New York’s northern wilderness. From the 1840s into the 1860s, they migrated to the Adirondacks to build farms and to vote. On their new land they could hope to meet the $250 property requirement New York imposed on Black prospective voters in 1821, and gain a cherished right of citizenship, the ballot.

In 1846 and ’47, three thousand Black New Yorkers were gifted with 120,000 acres of Adirondack land by Gerrit Smith, an upstate abolitionist and heir to an immense land fortune. Smith’s suffrage-minded plan was endorsed by Frederick Douglass and New York’s leading Black abolitionists. The antislavery reformer John Brown was such an advocate that in 1849 he moved his family to Timbuctoo, a new Black neighborhood in the woods.

Smith’s plan was prescient, anticipating Black suffrage reform, affirmative action, environmental distributive justice, and community-based racial equity more than a century before these were points of public policy. But when the response to Smith’s offer fell radically short of his high hopes, Smith’s zeal cooled. Timbuctoo, Freemen’s Home, Blacksville, and other Black enclaves were forgotten. Local and regional historians would marginalize the Black experience for 150 years.

The book cover "The Black Woods" showing the Adirondacks under a hazy brown sky

 In The Black Woods, I retrieve the robust story of Black pioneers who carved from the wilderness a future for their families and their civic rights. With stirring stories from archival sources, I return these trailblazers and their descendants to their rightful place in the Adirondack narrative. The recovery is long overdue.

3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12180 United States
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