by Joseph Mitlof
Our demographics, if early projections are correct, will prove to be dramatically different in 2010 than they were 25 or 30 years ago. In the 1960’s, when I arrived in Nyack to drive the midnight shift at Bud’s Taxi, our population was probably 40-50% Black. I’ve heard numbers closer to 15% from the current census.
Our demographic diversity, which we have all been proud of for so long, is rapidly becoming one of economic diversity, not cultural or racial. This is one of the reasons why a few of us, who are interested in local history, have tried to spotlight the role of the Historic Underground Railroad (U.G.R.R.) in our area. Our goal is to try to interest the local younger African Americans in a subject that they may be able to connect with. Sure, it may well be too little and too late, but it seems like anything is worth a try to stem the hemorrhaging of this most valuable segment of our population. Unfortunately, because of the secret/ anonymous (i.e. undocumented) nature of the U.G.R.R., some of our local historical society folks have had some hesitation in promoting or supporting our efforts. Other communities such as Peekskill, Newburg and others have successfully promoted the U.G.R.R. in their communities. Several in the Hudson Valley and further north have even obtained Federal grants in the effort.
The next lovely Spring evening you take a stroll along Main Street stop for a minute near Summit Street (just past Jerry’s Candy Store) and look North between the two buildings (the new Adare Apartments and Jerry’s). The rickety old stable with the two lantern lights flickering in the darkness tells a tale of Nyack history that only the daring have ever known.
Joseph Mitlof is founder of the Historic Underground Railroad Society (HUGRS.org)