Villa Lewaro

I road my bike to Villa Lewaro located in Irvington, NY about 30 miles from NYC. This Italianate style mansion was designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy, the first African American registered architect in New York State and he was one of the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity The mansion was a gift from A’lelia Walker for her mother Madam C.J. Walker. The mansion was built from 1916 to 1918 and from 1918 to 1919, Madam C.J. Walked called Villa Lewaro her home until her death in 1919.  The mansion’s current owners are the New Voices Foundation, which helps female entrepreneurs of color.

Click here to take a virtual tour of Villa Lewaro

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San Basilio de Palenque

Last week I celebrated my birthday in Cartagena, Colombia which was awesome. One place I had to visit while there was San Basilio de Palenque, southeast of Cartagena. Palenque is the first documented free town in the Americas founded about 1603 by Benkos Biohó a former African royal who had been enslaved in Cartagena. Today the spirit Benkos aka Domingo Biohó and the pride of their African heritage is very evident in the village and among the people of Palenque. Below are some photos I snapped while visiting, if you decide to visit Colombia please make it a point to visit Palenque, the tour company we used for our a day trip was Experience Real Cartagena


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Bruce Beach

Yesterday I read an article in LA Times (link here) about the descendants of the owners of Bruce Beach hoping to get their property back then I went to to see what information I could find out about Bruce Beach and I came across a few articles one in particular I found interesting was from 1924 published in The California Eagle-an African American newspaper from 1879-1964. That speaks about the property attempting to be taken from the Bruce family.

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Katy Ferguson House

Named after educator, philanthropist, advocate of child care and founder of New York’s first Sunday School, Katy Ferguson also known as Catherine Ferguson. The Harlem, New York brownstone was built in 1910 and became the home to the Katy Ferguson House which opened on 1920 to provide temporary care for unmarried African American mothers and young women over the age of 16. After coming across this article in The New York Age newspaper, I decided to ride my bike by the location. Today, 162 West 130th street is no longer a shelter for women but multiunit apartments.

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Boyd Gray: Cycle From New York City to San Fransisco

One day while on I decided to search for black cyclist during the late 1800s, early 1900s and I came across a story from 1894 about a cyclist named Boyd Gray. According to numerous newspaper articles, Boyd was in his early 20s and a resident of Yonkers, NY. He also worked as at the Getty House Hotel which was also located in Yonkers, NY. His father, who lived in Georgia, wrote Boyd and asked him if he could assist with payment their family farms mortgage. According to The Yonkers Herald dated August 13, 1894, “Gray did not have very much money, and night after night conjectured about a way to make money to save the farm. He at last hit upon an idea of riding through the country and earning money by blacking boots.” Boyd left New York City, The New York World Building (aka the Pulitzer Building) to be exact to cycle across the country to San Francisco on May 10, 1894. An article in the Democratic Chronicles Newspaper from June 23, 1894, described Boyd as “…a muscular young man, black as coal, and about five feet seven inches in height.”

Boyd arrived in San Francisco on October 17, 1894, and was able to raise the money to save his family farm. In addition to boot blacking he was also promoting for the bike company Derby according to The Rock Island Argus newspaper. “He not only carries a boot black’s box, but on the red sweater which he wears are the words “I ride a Derby.” So that between what money he makes at shinning shoes, he receives remuneration of the manufacturers of the “Derby” bike which he rides.” Most days Boyd rode anywhere between 60 miles to over 100 miles per day on his journey. In each place along his route he stopped he blacked the boots of the local towns people as well mayors, police chiefs and other notable people in those areas. He was well received in most places except in Chicago , where he was denied the opportunity to blacked the boots of Mayor John P. Hopkins according to an article in the El Paso Times dated April 13, 1895.

Below are some articles I found about Boyd’s trip but I haven’t found much else besides they articles about his epic adventure. I also haven’t found anything about Boyd Gray’s upbringing or life after his trip but, I did find a 1905 New York State Census for a man named Boyd Gray was living in Yonkers and working for a family as a butler. I’ll keep searching to see what else I can find out more about him and his journey.

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Roots Tech is here! Click on the link below to join in on the virtual conference

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History: Unscripted – Episode 129: More Than a Notion

Watch BlackProGen LIVE host Nicka Sewell-Smith and BlackProGen LIVE panelist Dr. Shelley Murphy and Dr. Ellen Fernandez-Sacco discuss if it is possible to trace your ancestry, both on paper and through DNA, to Africa.

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My Black History Month: Uncle James Watson

February 22nd

As you see from this deed affidavit my Great Uncle James Watson who was my Great Grandma Lillie younger brother was a trustee in the O.F. Bluefield Lodge No. 7426. I believe the O.F. stands for Odd Fellows.

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My Black History Month: Black Books

February 17th

Not my normal Black History post but I wanted to share some books from my childhood. My mom made it a point to give me books by or about Black people. I didn’t have to depend on the school system teaching me about Black History, my mom made sure of it.  

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My Black History Month: Aunt Susie Cox-Walker

February 13th

My Great Aunt Susan Belle aka Aunt Susie was the second oldest born to Scott and Jessie Belle Cox in Lowndes County, Alabama. Aunt Susie had one son named Elbert Walker, she also resided in Pensacola, Florida and at one point during the 1940s each of her three younger brothers lived with her in Pensacola.

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