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400 Years of Slavery

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

I was nervous about this seminar. It was my first interview as a college student. Everyone was taking their seats while we all waited for the guest speaker who has yet to introduce himself to the students. A man was sitting in the corner, watching what I was doing and asked if I needed help. He showed me the basics of how to work the camera and it wasn’t until Dr. Martha Brozyna introduced him as Jimmy Richard, that I found out who he was.

On October 15th, in room A11, Jimmy Richardson, a Paterson historian, visited PCCC main campus, to present on his seminar, 400 Years of African American History in 40 Minutes, to students, as a part of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Richardson catches the attention of students in the beginning of his seminar by presenting a recorded audio of the history of Negro league baseball. He connected the audio to the Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, in which he emphasized how the stadium became an historic marker for Negro League Baseball in the United States.

Richardson then guided students through a timeline of African American History in Paterson, from 400 years ago to the present. He brought out artifacts to show students and revealed the social climate of Paterson back when it was once called “up south”, a nickname that described the era of when racism was at its all-time high.

“You know African Americans couldn’t walk off Broadway; if you walk off Broadway going to East side park, you could get arrested,” Richardson said.

With so much cultural diversity in Paterson today, many students were shocked to know how much African Americans went through living here.

There was so much information and history given in this seminar, that Richardson talked much more than the 40 minutes he has promised in the name. He didn’t get to important issues that he wanted. “Can you Imagine what it is like in the 50’s and 60’s!? I mean it was terrible in Paterson. I mean it was really bad— I mean it is still bad, but a different kind of bad; it was bad for black people altogether. Now it’s bad because of the drugs and the unemployment--that’s another story I didn’t get to. I didn’t get to the housing and the education…” Richardson said.

“The past starts arguing with the present,” Richardson said in one part of his seminar, “When the past starts to argue with the present, you’re already going to lose the future, because nobody will know the truth!” Richardson’s main purpose in doing research about African Americans in Paterson is because it is not well documented and is not directly centered about the history of African Americans in itself.

In his seminar, Richardson wanted students to understand the genealogy of certain groups, so they can fully understand the social climate of today

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