Strength Of Generations

Black History Month 2018

One hundred years ago, an infantry regiment of African-American New Yorkers fought valiantly against the enemy on the French battlefields, finishing World War I as one of the most decorated American units. To get to France, however, the regiment and its commanding officer first had to fight for the right to fight under their country’s colors.

Fifty years later, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was slain on a different battlefield—the centuries-old battlefield against discrimination. Just 11 days before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke to the more than 2,000 people who crammed into Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church as Dr. King installed his former aide, the Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, as the church’s new pastor.

More than 2,000 people crammed into the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem to watch Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preside over the March 24, 1968, installation of the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker as senior pastor.

The Walker Family Archives

“I want to say don’t give up. It may be dark,” Dr. King spoke out from the pulpit in Harlem. “Things may be difficult. Storms may be staggering you. Jostling winds of confusion may be around you. But don’t give up. Don’t give up. Midnight is not here to stay.”

The story of New York is inseparable from the history and enduring legacy of the African American community, including the ongoing fight to overcome discrimination. Today, the black community represents nearly one in five New Yorkers and is rapidly diversifying as immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean and across the globe continue to grow the New York family.

Black History Month is an opportunity for all New Yorkers to celebrate their contributions and achievements. Their lives and accomplishments—their courage, tenacity, dignity, and respect for humanity—shaped the history of our state and today shine a bright path forward, providing strength and inspiration for all.

Their fights built on the work of preceding generations. Their work has laid the foundation for the fights that continue today.

We welcome you to explore and celebrate the lives and achievements of the men and women included in this exhibit.

Left: The World War I 369th Infantry Regiment, given the nickname “Hell Fighters” by the Germans, was honored with the coveted French Croix de Guerre.

Right: Albany’s Private Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery by President Barack Obama in 2015.

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