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NYC Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo by John McCarten for the New York City Council)

As African Americans began relocating north in the 1940s during the Great Migration, New York City grew to have the largest urban Black population in the world. While the US remains deeply segregated to this day, New York-based activists like Bayard Rustin, Lee Lorch, and Dorothy Height secured pivotal civil rights victories for African Americans, advocating to dismantle discrimination and increase representation in areas from housing to education. Still, history lessons sometimes minimize the northern city’s role in the American movement.

Thanks to recent legislation, New York City could build its very own institution to acknowledge, celebrate, and preserve this influence. Last Thursday, February 27, New York City Council passed Intro 1451-A, a local law that will assign an 11-member task force to “evaluate the feasibility of creating a museum about New York City’s African-American civil rights history.”

The task force, which will complete and submit its recommendations by March 2021, will consist of commissioners or representatives from the city’s departments of immigrant affairs, cultural affairs, human rights, records, and parks and recreation selected within 60 days of the law’s effective date. The chancellor of the Department of Education and five borough-level appointments by Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio will also be on the unit.

“There’s an untold civil rights movement story that needs to be told here, not just for us, but for our children, grandchildren and all generations to come, regardless of nationality,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera, who sponsored the bill, in a press release.

“The risks and personal sacrifices made by African-American New Yorkers are a guidepost and inspiration for standing up for justice.”

The legislation is now awaiting the mayor’s signature.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...