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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. In The Black Woods, Godine retrieves 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, Amy Godine returns these trailblazers and their descendants to their rightful place in the Adirondack narrative. This recovery is long overdue.

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

Who is Amy Godine?

Amy is a writer, curator, and lecturer with a longstanding interest in the social history of the Adirondack region. She has been writing articles and speaking about social trends, marginalized communities, and ethnic and Black neighborhoods in this high corner of New York since 1988. What do these pieces have in common beyond their focus on this region? One way or another, they aim to challenge or confound entrenched ideas about Adirondack exceptionalism, and reach for the guy lines that lash the region to the wider, fractious world beyond. Miners’ strikes, eastern European peddlers, Klan rallies, Spanish road workers, the pseudo-science of eugenics and its impact on the early conservation movement, suffrage activism, and Black pioneers – her’s is not the Adirondack Country dear to Park historians, nature writers or antiquarians. Amy goes for something else.

A headshot of Amy Goodine in a deep velvety blue button up shirt.
3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12180 United States
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