Understanding L.I.'s African-American history

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Today, Long Island is among the country’s most segregated regions, even though the minority population, including the African-American population, has been steadily growing for the past two decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nassau County’s African-American population has risen by a third since 1990, from 111,000 to more than 150,000 today. While Long Island’s general population is growing more diverse, however, individual communities remain separated along racial lines.

We encourage people of all races to learn about and from one another. When we understand one another’s complex histories –– the histories that have shaped our beliefs and practices –– then we naturally fear one another less. When fear disappears, so do racial lines. It particularly behooves the majority white population to learn about and understand African-Americans’ long struggle for equality –– a struggle that continues to this day, despite the election, and re-election, of an African-American president.

There are any number of avenues to learn more about Long Island’s African-American history, culture and community. Here are a few.

• The Hofstra University African-American Collection, a part of Axinn Library’s Special Collections, which can be found online at http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/library/libspc_soli.pdf.

• The African-American Museum and Center for Education and Applied Arts, 110 North Franklin St., Hempstead, (516) 572-0730. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday by appointment. Admission: $3. http://theaamuseum.org.

A “centerpiece of African-American history and culture on Long Island since 1970,” the museum holds regular exhibits showcasing the work of local and nationally known African-American artists. In 2005 it was given the Museum Preservation Award by American Legacy magazine for its work to preserve African-American history and culture.

• The Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs, Affirmative Action and Diversity Management, 40 Main St., third floor, Hempstead, (516) 572-1998 or 572-1355. http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/minorityaffairs/index.html.
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