African American Heritage

African-American Heritage in Buffalo & Erie County

DHP African/American Art 1


Joseph Hodge, a frontier pioneer during the 1790's, was one of the first settlers of African descent in the region, settling in Buffalo Creek. There, Hodge opened a shop with a white man, Cornelius Winney, which served as a trading post and information center. In 1790, New York had the sixth highest slave population in the nation. Over 82% of people of African descent were slaves. Four migrations introduced blacks into the Buffalo area. The first, beginning in the 1790's , included black laborers who helped lay out the streets of downtown Buffalo. The second wave began during the War of 1812, when black sailors fighting in the Battle of Lake Erie stayed in the area. Buffalo's status as an important stop on the Underground Railroad enticed more blacks. The third and fourth waves occurred in the 1920's and the 1940's, when African-Americans were recruited in factories to replace those who were fighting in the two World Wars. The population of African-Americans in the area increased from 32 in 1820 to 121,956 out of a total population of 1,037,211 according to the 1990 census.

Places of Interest

Durham Memorial AME Zion Church
174 E. Eagle
Buffalo, NY 14202
This church's history can be traced back to the Colored Methodist Society, the oldest African-American religious congregation in Buffalo, founded in 1831 on Vine Street. Originally named St. Luke's AME. Zion Church, the building was renamed for Rev. Henry Durham, its second pastor who was responsible for building the present structure. Rev. Durham is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Langston Hughes Institute
25 High Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Home of the Kush Museum, NIA writers, Art Gallery space.

St. Martin de Porres R.C. Church
335 Grider Street
Buffalo NY 14215
Formed in 1993 from St. Matthew's, St. Bartholemew"s, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Boniface and St. Benedict the Moor, the parish community is located at the former St. Bartholemew’s Parish. It was established to minister to the African-American Roman Catholic Community in the Central City.

Forest Lawn Cemetery and Garden Mausoleum
1411 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209-1110
Mary Burnett Talbert, Civil Rights Activist (1866-1923), is buried at Forest Lawn. She was a patriotic worker and a Red Cross nurse during WWI. Ms. Talbert fought for first-class citizenship for African-Americans as president of the Colored National Association of Women's Club, as director of the NAACP, and as chairwoman of the Anti-Lynching Committee. She also tirelessly helped to restore the home of Frederick Douglas

Michigan Street Baptist Church
511 Michigan Street
Buffalo, NY
Organized in 1836, the Church was active in the abolitionist movement as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Samuel H. Davis, ordained here in 1845, was a well-known abolitionist and anti-segregationist in the area.

Jesse Clipper Monument
William and Michigan Streets
Buffalo, NY
Unveiled in 1938, the monument is in honor of Jesse Clipper, the first African-American killed in WWI. The site is also symbolic of all African American soldiers who died in American wars. 

Colored Musician's Club  DHP African/American Saxaphone         
145 Broadway
Buffalo, NY
The Club was started in 1917 when African-American musicians were denied membership in the whites-only local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. Call for information on current events.

African-American Cultural Center
350 Masten Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209
Home of the Paul Robeson Theater and the Kakilambi African Dance and Drum Troupe. Offers classes in drama, dance and drums.

Ujima Theater Company
545 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222

Martin Luther King Park
Fillmore Ave near Best Street
Buffalo, NY
Sculptured head of Martin Luther King, Jr. by artist John Wilson.

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Servicemen's Park
One Naval Park Cove
Buffalo, NY 14202
Includes a permanent exhibit "Blacks in the Military"

Places to Eat

Randi’s Red Door Cafe, 1363 Sycamore Street, Buffalo NY
(8 AM - 5 PM/Tues- 7:30 AM - 12 PM)

Kensington Place Restaurant, 377 Kensington Avenue, Buffalo, NY

Uncle Eddie's, 1677 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Gi Gi's Restaurant, 257 E. Ferry Street, Buffalo, NY

Caribbean Experience, 2897 Bailey Avenue, Buffalo, NY

Meals for a Steal, 261 E. Ferry Street, Buffalo, NY

Dr. Bird's Caribbean Corner, 842 E. Delevan Street, Buffalo, NY

Dr. Bird's Rastarant, 3104 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

McKenzie's Restaurant, 396 Michigan & Eagle, Buffalo, NY

Mattie's Texas Hots, 1412 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, NY

Nancy's Country Kitchen, 1905 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY

Places to Shop

Harambee Books & Crafts, 108 Sycamore Street. Buffalo NY
African and African-American books, magazines, games, cards, Kwanzaa materials

Habeeb's Body Oils, 1367 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Oils, incense, Islamic materials

Out of Africa, 3084 Bailey Avenue, Buffalo, NY
African clothing and gifts

My Ancestors, 2316 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
African clothing, art work and gifts.

Doris Records, 286 E. Ferry Street, Buffalo, NY
Cassettes, CD's- gospel, jazz, rap, rhythm and blues, contemporary.

Flight 104, 102 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Clothing, jewelry, gifts, art work.

Images of Us, 926 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
Art works, prints and framing.

Bread of Life Bookstore, 944 Jefferson Avenure, Buffalo, NY
African-American Christian supplies, music, cards.

Western Baptist Bookstore, 1288 Fillmore Avenue., Buffalo, NY
African-American Christian supplies, cards and music.

Fraternally Yours Cards & Gifts, 2460 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
African-American cards & Gifts, Black Greek clothing and items.

Zelt Trading Post, 4401 Transit Road., Williamsville NY 14221
Drums, clothing, jewelry, art, classes.

Libraries and Museums

International Africana Research Museum, New York African Institute
PO Box 700
Buffalo NY 14215
716-836-1388, 835-4169
The New York International African Institute is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national, nonprofit, Africana Resource Center, the mission to bring Africa closer to North America through research, education, documentation, exhibition, publication and exchange.

E.H. Butler Library, State University College at Buffalo
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
Collections include materials from the Lit-Mus Study Club (African American Literary & Music club for women which began in Buffalo in the 1920's), papers of former Buffalo City Council member Herbert Bellamy & former Buffalo City Council President George K. Arthur.

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, N. Jefferson Branch
332 E. Utica Street
Buffalo, NY 14208
Houses many records on microfilm relating to the WNY African-American community, including records of the Colored Musicians Union (1917-75), the Buffalo Challenger (1968-81), and the Buffalo Criterion (1940-75) newspapers, and several collections of community organizations and family papers. Largest collection of African-American resources in WNY.

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Martin Luther King Branch
451 William Street
Buffalo, NY 14221

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch
Lafayette Square, Buffalo NY
Contains documents relating to African-American history, culture and personages. Has large African-American genealogy collection.

Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society
25 Nottingham Court
Buffalo, NY 14216
Collection includes Talbert family papers.

University Archives
SUNY @ Buffalo
420 Capen Hall
Amherst, NY 14260

Coummnity Resources

Afro-American Historical Association of Niagara Frontier
PO Box 63
Buffalo, NY 14207

Black Chamber of Commerce of Western New York
Box 422
Buffalo NY 14209

Motherland Tours
Kevin Cottrell
Bus Tours of the Underground Railroad sites in Buffalo & surrounding area

The Buffalo Genealogical Society of the African Diaspora
PO Box 2534
Buffalo NY 14240-2534
For more information contact Robert N. Davis 716-881-1823 or

Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


Buffalo's Blacks - Talking Proud, Eva M. Noles, 1986

The Book of Light, Lucille Clifton, Port Townsend, WA; Cooper Canyon Press, 1993

A Gathering at the River: 150 Years of Black Catholic History in the Diocese of Buffalo, Rev. Roderick M. Brown, O.P. NY: Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, 1997.


The Challenger, 1303 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14211 (716) 897-0442 Editor: Al-Nisa & Barbara Banks

Buffalo Criterion, 623 William Street, Buffalo, NY 14206 716-882-9570

Fine Print News, 806 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14212 716-855-3810

The Defender, 716-884-8624

Radio Stations & Shows

WBFO (88.7 FM) from SUNYAB features "Macy Favor's Jazz Favorites," Sundays at 2 PM

WUFO (1080 AM) features African-American music and programs, such as the "Ron Fleming Report," Wed. at 10 AM; "Kirkland's Corner," Fri. at 10 AM; and "Community Hour," Sat. at 8 AM.

WBLK (93.7 FM) airs African-American music, and features storyteller Karima Amin on Monday Mornings @ 8:15 AM.

Special Events

Annual Gospel Festival,
Johnny B. Wiley Sports Pavillion, Jefferson & Best Street, Buffalo, NY
Held in July, the festival features many WNY gospel singers and choirs.

Juneteenth Festival
Martin Luther King Park, Fillmore & Best Street, Buffalo,
Held annually, the last weekend of the "teens" in June. A celebration of African-
American freedom with activities to commemorate the cultural and historical achievements of African-Americans. No admission fee, but concession items and crafts are sold.

Kwanzaa  DHP African/American Kwanzaa

An African-American holiday celebrated Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Programs and activities are held at various locations throughout the community. For information contact Sharon and Kenneth Holley at 886-1399.

Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration
National holiday is third Monday in January. The Buffalo community holds many activities giving tribute to Dr. King throughout the month of January. Programs are scheduled in public libraries, schools, churches and community institutions.

Black History Month
Activities are celebrated throughout the month of February in many locations in the city. These events include speakers, contests, cultural presentations, storytelling, art exhibits, etc.

Caribbean Festival
Held in LaSalle Park usually the third weekend in August. Food, music and gifts from the Caribbean are featured & coordinated by the Langston Hughes Institute.

People of Importance

William Wells Brown, writer and abolitionist.
An escaped slave, William Wells Brown made his way to Buffalo in 1835, and used his position as a crew member on a steamer to help slaves escape to Canada. From the 1840's to the 1860's, he was recognized as one of the nation's leading abolitionists. He traveled the world, writing and lecturing about the slaves' plight. Brown also organized Buffalo's first temperance society in the 1840's. Marker placed near First Shiloh Baptist Church, 15 Pine St., Buffalo.

Did You Know?

Mary Burnett Talbert founded the Phyllis Wheatly Club, the oldest organization of African-American women in Buffalo.

The Underground Railroad began to operate in Buffalo soon after the War of 1812. Many locations in the city were used to hide slaves - among the buildings still standing is the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, 511 Michigan Ave.

The founding of the Niagara Movement by WEB Dubois in the Buffalo area in 1905 was the fore-runner of the NAACP.

When built in 1922-23, Durham Memorial AME Zion Church (then St. Luke's) became the largest church in the city of Buffalo built by a Black congregation.

The Royal Serenaders Male Chorus in one of the oldest black male singing groups. They have been singing in the Buffalo area since 1946.

DHP African/American Art 2

Mary Delmont
Monroe Fordham
Levirn Hill
Sharon Holley
Rev. Richard Stewart

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