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Exhibit to Trace First Black Presence in the Americas

Colonial manuscript about the Ordinances of 1522 instituted after what is known as the first slave rebellion in the Americas, in La Española. Image courtesy of AGI, Section-Patronato.

“Glimpses of Black People in the Earliest Documents of the Modern Americas,” an exhibit that traces the first African presence in the Americas, opens at The City College of New York Friday, May 1, 2015. It will be on view in the CUNYDominican Studies Institute’s (DSI) exhibit room, NAC 2/202. On display will be images of original documents, transcriptions, translations and photographs of historic sites on the island-colony of La Española (Hispaniola) that is today the neighboring states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The exhibit is a continuation of DSI’s larger project entitled “First Blacks in the Americas” that has amassed a wealth of paleographic transcriptions and translations.

“By offering these documents, many of which will be presented in the exhibit for the first time, we will allow the public to understand contents that are usually accessible only to specialists trained in paleography, the deciphering of the often intricate handwriting used at the time,” said Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, assistant director of CUNY DSI. 

Dr. Lissette Acosta-Corniel, a DSI researcher, said the material would include images of the earliest documents they have been able to track that mention the presence of Blacks in La Española in the 16th century. Dr. Acosta-Corniel and Mr. Stevens-Acevedo, co-wrote the proposal that won a $5,000 grant from CUNY Diversity Projects Development Fund to stage the exhibit.

Dr. Ramona Hernández, director of the CUNY DSI, said the grant allows the institute to advance the ‘First Blacks’ project to the next level. “It provides us with the opportunity to share these historical images that tell us of the beginnings of the transatlantic slave trade and the contributions made by Black people in the Americas from the first moment they arrived,” she noted. 

About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. U.S. News, Princeton Review and Forbes all rank City College among the best colleges and universities in the United States.



Jay Mwamba
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