Map of Underground Railroad routes in Otsego County area.

Hartwick College Celebrates African American History Month

February 5, 2016

Hartwick College celebrates this year’s national theme for Black History Month, “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories,” by honoring local personalities of the region whose historical contributions are relatively unknown.

The College’s Student Diversity Advisory Council – which comprises members of various diversity organizations, and is advised by Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs Harry Bradshaw Matthews – met several times during January Term. The Council developed a local theme for the month, and special programming to support it.

“Susquehanna River: African American Memories Through the Arts” will reflect the memories of local personalities, and how ancestors have influenced the values and believes of current students. Through poetry and song, self-reflection and discussion, students will recall the Underground Railroad through a month-long series of events.

According to Matthews, for more than 20 years local research efforts in Delaware and Otsego Counties have uncovered members of local communities along and near the Upper Susquehanna River who contributed to the Freedom Journey.

“It is wonderful that current students now have the opportunity to learn about and embrace the memories of some of these elders,” he said.
In celebration, the following events are scheduled this month. They are open to the public, unless otherwise noted:

  • Thursday, Feb. 11 – Black Student Alliance (BSA) Interest Group and Society of Sisters United/Brothers United (SOSU/BU) will host the panel discussion, “Use of the N word” (first of a series conceptualized by SOSU/BU). Eaton Lounge, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 17 – BSA Interest Group to host a Poetry Slam. Laura’s Lounge, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 20 – Pluralism Associates League for Students (PALS) will host its annual Leadership Training Seminar. Clark Hall, Room 244, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Monday, Feb. 22 – BSA Interest Group hosts “Underground Railroad Walk Through” (Location/time TBD)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 23 – BSA Interest Group hosts “The Apollo Amateur Night.” Laura’s Lounge, 7 – 9 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 24 – BSA Interest Group to host “Wild-in-Out.” Laura’s Lounge, 7 – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 27 – USCTI’s Alumni Advisory Council to host its Adjustment and Transition Seminar for current students. Eaton Lounge, Bresee Hall, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, Feb. 27 – SOSU/BU and Intercultural Affairs Luncheon and Awards for Outstanding Alumni. Chesebro Room, Dewar Hall, noon to 1 p.m.; reserve seating required
  • Saturday, Feb. 27 – PALS and Intercultural Affairs Dinner Recognition of African American Memories Along the Upper Susquehanna River. Chesebro Room, Dewar Union, 5 – 7 p.m.; reserved seating required.

Also, the U.S. Pluralism Center, Bresee Hall, Room 101, will have a display of documents and images on display from February 8 – 27 that celebrate the memories of local African-American figures, including:

  • Cato Freedom, a black Revolutionary War soldier of 1783, who is interred at the Butternuts Cemetery in Burlington
  • Dinah Ann Vincent, a woman of color, who in 1819 was baptized at the First Baptist Society in Middlefield. The baptism certificate, provided by the Society Clerk Dorothy Rathbun, is one of the earliest recorded documents of African-American presence in the area.
  • “Mama Lucretia” and her children, who were runaway slaves who escaped from Virginia to Oneonta in 1860
  • Private William Street, a Civil War soldier discharged in 1865, who relocated to Sidney; and
  • Private Samuel Jones, a Civil war soldier who relocated in 1865 to Unadilla. Jones’ great-great-granddaughter, Linda Dorage, is a nationally recognized educator based in Georgia, and recently shared a copy of Jones’ image.

Other relevant items will also be on exhibit.

For more on African American History Month events, contact Matthews at 607-431-4428 or at