Recognizing Black History In Glen Cove

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Portrait of African-American historian Carter Godwin Woodson as a young man. Courtesy of the New River Gorge National River website, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, United States Government. (Photo source: Wikimedia)

Attendees of last week’s Glen Cove City Council meeting were given a brief history lesson about the plight and accomplishments of African Americans on Long Island. In honor of Black History Month, Sheryl Goodine, a retired administrator from the Glen Cove School District and chairwoman of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Birthday Commission, spoke about the importance of recognizing black history in this country.

“We owe the celebration of Black History Month and the study of black history to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, born to parents of former slaves who escaped from poverty through education,” said Goodine. “Through his studies, he was deeply disturbed to learn the history books largely ignored or misrepresented the role of African Americans in American history. He took on the challenge of writing African Americans into the nation’s history; in 1926 he established Negro History Week.”

She explained that in 1976, it was expanded to a month, then gave an outline of the history of African Americans on Long Island. She said people were brought to the island as slaves as early as 1626, and there are references to free blacks on Long Island as early as 1657; however, most were slaves until after the American Revolution. In 1799, she said New York enacted legislation to abolish slavery, but the law did not allow men to be free until age 28 and women had to be 25—as a result, slavery existed for the next 28 years.
Goodine noted that many middle class African Americans were living in Glen Cove until urban renewal took place in the 1950s—“known as ‘urban removal’ in black communities”—and because their homes were torn down in order to build new ones, they were forced to leave and many never returned.

“Mayor, council members, be careful that history does not repeat itself,” said Goodine. “In 2018, the program may be called a different name and the reasons for destruction of homes and displacement of families may be presented from a different perspective, but the results, unfortunately, are the same. Quite honestly, it is the fear of many black Glen Covers, and myself sometimes as well, that one day we look around our beloved Glen Cove and not see anybody that looks like us.”

Still speaking to the council, she brought up the subject of affordable housing. “During Black History Month, I urge you to remember the unsung black heroes and heroines of Glen Cove.”

She mentioned Ralph Young, his sister Wilhelmina Young, who she said had to move out of Glen Cove in order to get a job as a principal, Tuskegee Airman William Johnson, activist James Davis, Olympic medalist John John Davis and the singer Ashanti.

“When you are deliberating and making decisions in areas that directly affect the lives of others, such as housing,” she said, “please remember that the next great educator, entertainer, athlete, singer, politician or writer might be sitting in one of Glen Cove’s schools right now, but we will never know if he or she and their family has to move out of Glen Cove to make way for…what?”

The council then resumed the meeting; a public hearing was opened for the proposal of programs to be included in the 2018-19 Community Development Program for the City of Glen Cove. CDA director Ann Fangmann said that the city council will be presented with a detailed plan on March 27 and the application is due April 2.

The council also entered into several inter-municipal agreements with Nassau County to accept grants for equipment and vehicles, including equipment for the fire department, a new harbor patrol boat and a bus for the Glen Cove Senior Center.

The next city council meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m.

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