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Skidmore College

Local "Great Migration"

April 7, 2017
A Rapp Road house in 2012 (Photo by Daniel Case)
A Rapp Road house in 2012 (Photo by Daniel Case)

Crossroads: The History of Rapp Road tells the story of an Albany, N.Y., neighborhood that was part of America's "Great Migration" out of the Jim Crow South and into northern cities. The half-hour documentary will be shown Thursday, April 13, at 6 p.m. in Skidmore's Davis Auditorium. A panel discussion will follow, featuring Stephanie Woodward, Dina Ranellucci, Beverly Bardequez, and Todd Allen Ferguson, all members of the Rapp Road Historical Association and descendants of the original community settlers. Bardequez and Ferguson collaborated in the production of the film, which debuted on Albany's WMHT public TV station last fall.

The Rapp Road district, a 14-acre residential neighborhood in Albany's Pine Bush area, was founded by the Rev. Louis Parson, who left Shubuta, Miss., in the 1920s to escape the racist oppression of the Jim Crow laws in the South. He was followed by several of his congregation, friends, and family. They first lived in Albany's South End but found it too urban, so Parson bought 28 acres in the undeveloped Pine Bush for his community. After he died in 1940, his followers carried on, building their own houses, planting crops, and living self-sufficiently.

In 1972 eminent domain claimed half of the acreage for the extension of Washington Avenue to connect Albany to its western suburbs, and in 1984 the remaining community fended off further encroachment from the nearby construction of Crossgates Mall. At present Rapp Road is one of Albany's oldest structurally and socially preserved residential neighborhoods. Though it was designated a state historic district in 2002 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, it still faces threats from private development interests, and the Preservation League of New York State included it on its "Seven to Save" list for 2016–17.

Skidmore's American Studies Department and John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative are hosting the screening and discussion.

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