Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten: African Americans in Saratoga Springs

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I feel so lucky to have such amazing, talented and creative friends. I have friends who are writers, comedians, photographers, content providers for children's television... and all of them inspire me with their work. Really.

One of my friends, the one who brought me those delicious Saratoga Chips from Saratoga Springs, is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer who also grapples with issues of race and identity in her work. Her name is Yuko Edwards. When I first met Yuko, she was working on a documentary about Black American women who had moved to Europe in search of a better quality of life. So, you know we had lots to talk about. She's still working on that film but has done lots of other work, much of it photography, in the meantime.

As a transplant to Saratoga Springs, Edwards was struck by the lack of color in her new town. She discovered that there had once been an African-American community in Saratoga Springs, but somehow they slowly became displaced. So her response was to 'repopulate' Saratoga Springs with Black people in images. In her own words, here's how Edwards describes the photo series she titled The Homestead:

"I rarely see African Americans on the streets of Saratoga Springs, New York. Yet, I know that 1 in 6 Americans are black. Where are they? African Americans were an important and vibrant segment of this community at one time. Today, they seem to have vanished from town. I am forced to imagine them here. It is my nostalgia for this community that has motivated me to repopulate it with images of my own family. They evoke the former presence of African Americans and their energy, which has now faded. I am comforted by seeing my community at home."

Enjoy. And please feel free to leave a comment here with your thoughts about the photographs. And if you are so intrigued and want to learn more about the African-Americans who once called Saratoga Springs home, see if you can find a copy of this book, Lord Please Don't Take Me in August: African Americans in Newport and Saratoga Springs, 1870-1930.


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