Port Washington's African-American Heritage

About

“It Looks Like Yesterday To Me!”  These are the words that help bring the past alive.  They were spoken by a descendant of one of Long Island’s oldest African-American families, whose reminiscences are among dozens of interviews which were conducted during 1981 as part of an oral history project sponsored by the Port Washington Public Library and funded by the Arwood Foundation.  [See below for tips on navigating the collection.]

The people whose voices are heard in this collection share a common tradition – whether their roots in Port Washington go back over two centuries, or they came here during the Great Migration of the 1920s.  It is based on shared customs and values that have been passed down to them through the generations.  This is a site about “Sparky” the mechanic, who owned one of Port Washington’s first gas stations; about “Uncle Rube” and “Howdy,” who played baseball for the Colored Stars in the early 1900s; about the old camp meetings down at Dodge’s Grove; and about the Biddles, who invented their own family holiday, “Liba Jane Townsend Day.”

Most of the old-timers who were interviewed still live in the historic area around Harbor Homes, and have maintained regular interactions with each other over a lifetime.  Foreparents’ lessons and traits are still remembered, as are the traditions of work, recreation, religion, and story-telling, so vital in shaping African-American culture on Long Island.

We have relied upon our memoirists to tell their own stories, as their own words can best convey the achievements and struggles which have characterized their lives as they have “come up” in Port Washington.

Elly Shodell, Local History Director


Navigating the Collection

Thumbnail Photos: Browse the thumbnails on the front page, and click on one to see the full photo and more information.

Categories: We’ve divided our photographs into subject categories, including Education, Leisure, Religion, Work, etc.  Click on the ‘Categories’ menu on the right.

Tags: Click on the keywords on the right side of the page.  The larger the type, the more photographs we have for that description.

We invite you to contribute to the site by leaving comments on your favorite photos!  If you have any information or materials you’d like to share, please get in touch with the Port Washington Public Library Local History Center by calling (516) 883-4400 ext. 167.  Thanks for visiting!

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