African Americans in Erie County: A Brief History

This historical overview is intended to provide a context in which to better understand and appreciate the larger story told here in A Shared Heritage: A Driving and Digital Tour of People and Places of Erie County African American History. This synopsis of a rich and layered history is adapted in large part from Sarah S. Thompson’s excellent book, Journey from Jerusalem: An Illustrated Introduction to Erie’s African American History, 1795-1995 (Erie County Historical Society, 1996), as well as other sources indicated at the end of each section.  Any errors or omissions remain the responsibility of the author. As with the entirety of African American history, this project remains an organic, ever-evolving enterprise. Feedback is welcome. 

I: Settlement and Slavery to the Civil War: 1795-1865

II: Community Strength at the Margins of the City: 1865-1930

III: Thriving Amid Depression, War, and Social Change: 1930-1960

IV: Ongoing Challenges: 1970-present