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Showing Cooperstown in NY...

Basic Information
Type of PlaceIndependent City or Town
Metro Area?Independent City or Town
Politics c. 1860?Don't Know
Unions, Organized Labor?Don't Know

Sundown Town Status
Confirmed Sundown Town?Possible
Year of Greatest Interest
Was there an ordinance?Don't Know
Sign?Don't Know
Still Sundown?Don't Know

Census Information

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Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s).

Group(s) Excluded

Cooperstown Historian: "Cooperstown had a vital hops industry, and blacks were hops pickers. But then the market fell out from under the hops industry, and a blight struck. Blacks left at that time, maybe under pressure." Cooperstown Historian: "I'm not aware of any effort in Cooperstown to keep out African Americans. I don't think that, as such, it was ever an issue here or, I suspect, in other Otsego county towns. African Americans peaked about 1830 in the county, and then declined until after World War II - though within the county their distribution changed over the years. Most were of basically local origin until it became a fad, about the Civil War, to have African Americans as hotel employees, and also as barbers. It is my understanding that Lakelands Cemetery, opened in 1856, did not for a time permit burial of African Americans, and as a result most were buried in a section of the graveyard at Christ Episcopal Church (even if of other faiths). But I've never seen any documentation of this." Cooperstown-area Historian: "The majority history of Cooperstown is "white" in terms of population demographics, but that was never "on purpose." African American and Chinese Americans have been present in Otsego County dating back to the early 1800s, at least for the blacks. The Chinese came later. In 1827, when slavery was abolished in New York state, 60 or more African Americans gathered at the First Presbyterian Church on July 4 to celebrate emancipation. There is substantial research in progress on the subject of African Americans in Cooperstown, in Otsego township and in Otsego County - not just their baseball connections, but in all respects. Black males and females typically worked in Cooperstown in hotels as cooks and cleaners in the 19th and early 20th centuries, or as servants to wealthy families. In the white community, minstrel shows were a common form of entertainment in the 19th and 20th centuries - performed by professional traveling companies and also by local citizens fire companies, baseball teams, Rotary clubs, church congregations and school groups. I have a photo of a playground team of white boys in blackface from the 1930s, for example. Minstrel shows survived here into the 1960s. Minstrel shows say more about white culture perhaps than African American culture, but the prevalence of minstrelsy as a form of white entertainment for more than a century, and its intersection with baseball, is interesting and significant. While Cooperstown history shows a degree of tolerance and acceptance of African Americans as individual citizens, there is also a great deal of racist literature, particularly in the newspapers. Black citizens appear to have been marginalized and segregated in various pernicious ways, but they were not "run out of town" as far as I can determine, with one possible exception. Hop pickers who came to Otsego County seasonally in the late 19th century were regarded with suspicion and were often reported to have caused "trouble," and described as "hobos." Most hop pickers were white, but blacks were also involved as hop pickers. One 19th century ad in The Freeman's Journal invites customers to "purchase a pistol and shoot the hobos if they misbehave." Young women brought to this area in the 1940s to help pick bean crops as part of the war effort were segregated into "white" and "black" work camps. In conclusion, Cooperstown, in my opinion, is a de facto "white" community historically, and at present as well, although our diversity has increased somewhat. Still, racism survives here. During black history month last year, a newspaper publisher privately criticized an article that ran in his publication featuring a talk on Martin Luther King by a woman of African American lineage who has lived in this area for 27 years. According to this critic, an article by a local woman about MLK was inappropriate for a newspaper with a predominantly white readership."
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