Blacks in Niagara Falls

Leaders and Community Development, 1850-1985

By Michael B. Boston

Subjects: New York/regional, Black Studies, American History, Leadership Studies, Urban Sociology
Hardcover : 9781438484617, 462 pages, August 2021
Paperback : 9781438484624, 462 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


1. Community Formation, 1850 to 1914

2. The Development of the Black Community, Late 1915 to the Early Great Depression Years

3. The Development of the Black Community, The Great Depression Years, 1930s

4. Expanded Community and New Realities, 1940 to 1960

5. The Civil Rights Years, 1960s

6. Public School Desegregation, 1960s and 1970s

7. Urban Renewal, 1960 to 1985: External Change Agents Juxtaposed with Internal Change Agents

8. A New Reality, 1980 to 1985


Appendix A: Template for Interview Questions

Appendix B: Sample Institutional Questions Asked About St. John's AME Church

Appendix C: Notes on Interviewees

Appendix D: Interview Excerpts from Two Recorded Interviews, Barbara Smith and Theodore Williamson

Appendix E: Notable Leaders Who Impacted Black Niagaran History


A detailed study of the history of African Americans in a small upstate New York city from the days of the Underground Railroad to the deindustrialization of the 1980s.


Blacks in Niagara Falls narrates and analyzes the history of Black Niagarans from the days of the Underground Railroad to the Age of Urban Renewal. Michael B. Boston details how Black Niagarans found themselves on the margins of society from the earliest days to how they came together as a community to proactively fight and struggle to obtain an equal share of society's opportunities. Boston explores how Blacks came to Niagara Falls in increasing numbers usually in search of economic opportunities, later establishing essential institutions, such as churches and community centers, which manifested and reinforced their values, and interacted with the broader community, seeking an equitable share of other society opportunities. This singular examination of a small city significantly contributes to Urban History and African American Studies scholarly research, which generally focuses on large cities. Combining primary source data with extensive interviews gathered over an eighteen-year period in which the author immersed himself in the Niagara community, Blacks in Niagara Falls offers an insightful study of how one small city community grew over its unique history.

Michael B. Boston is Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. He is the author of The Business Strategy of Booker T. Washington: Its Development and Implementation and Dr. Skinner's Remarkable School for Colored Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Children 1857–1860.