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Black and African American Collections in the University Archives: Buffalo History

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2024 10:44 AM

Frank P. Besag papers, 17/F/146
The 1967 Buffalo uprising was one of a series of incidents of civil unrest known as the “Long Hot Summer of 1967.” Though preceded by individual events such as the Watts Rebellion (Los Angeles) of 1965 and the Division Street uprising (Chicago) of 1966, this succession of confrontations gained momentum and exploded across the country in spontaneous protest against unemployment, segregation, and police brutality. This collection contains individual and group interviews which were used as source material for Frank Besag's book Anatomy of a Riot: Buffalo, 1967, a case study comprised primarily of interviews with witnesses to the events in Buffalo from June 26 through July 1, 1967. The study was prompted by residents who had witnessed the events. They approached the Woodlawn Education Information Center, one of three Title I-funded Storefront Education Information Centers—two on the East Side and one in Lackawanna—sponsored by the Cooperative Urban Extension Center (CUEC), a consortium of Erie and Niagara County colleges and universities. The CUEC, under Director Robert Berner, and the University at Buffalo, under President Martin Meyerson, provided funds and appointed researchers for the study. For more on the event, see Rowena I. Alfonso, "'They Aren’t Going to Listen to Anything But Violence': African Americans and the 1967 Buffalo Riot" and "Crucial to the Survival of Black People: Local People, Black Power, and Community Organizations in Buffalo, New York, 1966–1968.

Buffalo Urban League reports, MS 21
A collection of annual, quarterly, and special reports from the Buffalo Urban League, Buffalo, New York.
The Buffalo Urban League was established in 1927 by an interracial group of prominent citizens. They united to address the employment, housing, and social needs of African Americans migrating from the South to the North and the various immigrant populations who had settled in the City of Buffalo.

Manhattan Hotel photographs, MS 244
The Manhattan Hotel, sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Hotel and Pool Room, was the first Black hotel in Buffalo, New York, founded by prominent leader in the African American community, Mack G. Anderson. Mr. Anderson was the proprietor of the men’s-only hotel, which consisted of 31 guest rooms, a café, a bar, and a billiards room. Located at 466 Michigan Avenue, near William Street, the hotel was a staple of the African American community in the Michigan Avenue corridor of the city. Mr. Anderson and his wife, Bettie S. Anderson also became heavily involved in the nearby Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, which became a meeting place for prominent civil rights activists W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, and Mary B. Talbert. The photographs include images of the bar and the exterior of the hotel in Buffalo, New York, circa 1909.

Michigan Avenue Y.M.C.A. records, MS 4
Built in 1927 by Black architect John Edmonston Brent, the Michigan Avenue Branch Y.M.C.A. opened on April 15, 1928. In addition to programs for boys and adults, the Y offered public forums organized by the Education Committee featuring prominent Black figures such as Dr. Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University; Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois; Congressman Oscar De Priest; Mary McLeod Bethune, President of Bethune-Cookman College; Nannie Burroughs, President of the National Training School for Women and Girls; Walter White, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and Mary Church Terrell, first President of the National Association of Colored Women. The Y served as a meeting place and a center of Black life in Buffalo. This collection consists of administrative records including minutes, reports and a leather bound book which contains the "Covenant" of the Michigan Avenue Y.M.C.A., signed by the members of the Board of Managers; photographs (1927-1962) and scrapbooks which contain clippings, leaflets, programs and copies of "The Y's Messenger," a Michigan Avenue Y.M.C.A. newsletter; and material regarding the Coordinating Council of Negro Affairs (CCNA), a "History and Organization" of the Michigan Avenue Y.M.C.A. and memorabilia including a W.E.B. DuBois 1936 Appearance Flyer.
See also the YMCA Buffalo Niagara records (MS 170), which includes a file on the Michigan Avenue Branch, 1927-1949.

Niagara Frontier Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, Records (1934-1978), MS 107

Includes records of the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its predecessors, including correspondence, minutes, case files, news releases, background files, photographs, newspaper clippings and other materials. The activities of the chapter were largely confined to the city of Buffalo and Erie and Niagara Counties, but occasionally the chapter was involved in cases and issues in other parts of Western New York. Also Included are records of the Upstate New York Division which document its efforts to build ACLU membership in the Southern Tier of New York State and particularly in Ithaca, NY, in the early 1960s.

Correspondence documents the organizational life of the chapter both internally and in its relations with the national ACLU (including correspondence with Roger Baldwin) and later with the NYCLU. Letters from people in the local community congratulating or taking issue with the ACLU's position on various issues document public attitudes towards civil liberties. Other letters, primarily but not exclusively in the case files, seek the ACLU's assistance on a variety of legal issues.

Complaint and case files document the work of the ACLU in numerous issues from indigenous rights in the 1930s to prison reform in the 1970s. The file on police and law enforcement documents race-based brutality and harassment against Black and African American people in Western New York, and the series on case files includes materials related to B.U.I.L.D. of Buffalo et al. v. Frank A. Sedita 441 F.2d 284 (2d Cir. 1971).

St. Philip's Episcopal Church records, MS 269
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church’s history begins a year before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1861, under the leadership of a white clergyman, Reverend Witherspoon. In 1865 the first Black full-time rector, Reverend Samuel L. Berry, assumed leadership, establishing the church as a home for Black Protestant Episcopalians to experience church through their African roots and continues operation today. The St. Philip’s Episcopal Church records comprise materials documenting church history and vital records from the congregation, primarily in the form of bound volumes of vestry meeting minutes, records of service, and parish registers. 

Uncrowned Queens digital oral history project, MS 114
The Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research & Education on Women, Inc. researches, documents and preserves the regional histories of African American women and men in Western New York and across the country. Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, Ph.D. and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H., Ph.D. founded the Institute in 1999, which was initially established as a project of the Women's Pavilion Pan Am 2001. The goals were to commemorate the history of African and African American involvement in the Pan American Exposition of 1901 and to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African American women during the period of and in the one hundred years after the fair. The Uncrowned Queens digital oral history project contains oral histories of Georgia Burnette, Gwendolyn Greene, Thelma Hardiman, Eva Noles, Garnet Hicks Wallace conducted by Dr. Brook-Bertram and Dr. Seals Nevergold.