My senior thesis project is on the history of the African Diaspora in Schenectady, New York. This project came into fruition upon one of my first memories of Schenectady. As my family and I walked downtown to find a place to eat after a morning of moving into my dorm, a city bus whizzed by us with an advertisement urging people of Guyanese descent to get tested diabetes. Our phone calls would go back to that moment and we would ask each other how these people ended “up all the way up here.” As I progressed through Union and saw more and more of the Schenectady community, I began to better see how the city’s inhabitants look and identify themselves. There are African Americans, the Guyanese, the people from the West Indies and Caribbean, and the Africans. This plethora of people of the African Diaspora did not come here by accident, and there have been numerous social factors that led them here, influenced them to settle in certain areas, and stay here.
As Schenectady is the ideal American city of where economic opportunity and social and cultural migration clash, the city hosts an abundance of cultures and different ethnic groups. This heterogeneous society also comes with its own problems. Competition for resources has pitted different groups against one another. In some cases, this dissent has been on the basis of the fear an oppressed group may rise to power. In contemporary matters, this racial and ethnic uneasiness has been due to the governments and policies the people are under that unfairly dole out opportunity. This friction is further amplified even within ethnic and racial groups, coming to fruition within the intersections of race and class.
In this project, I intend to examine the history of African Diasporic ethnic groups, mainly African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and African immigrants, looking into the history of why and how they, as a culturally connected group, came to Schenectady. In this same vein, I will highlight the social and cultural factors that not only brought them here but also continue to keep them here and in what areas of the city. By examining these three groups through multiple lens, I will discuss the intersections of race and class in inter- and intra-racial and ethnic interactions and by what means communities form or are disrupted by them.
In conducting my research, I will utilize and feature news articles, interviews, and other forms of media that focus on diasporic immigration and settlement in Schenectady and other major cities. I will also incorporate studies on intra-black relations between African Americans, African immigrants, and other ethnic diasporic groups and the construction of identity and categorization in this process. I will also conduct interviews of Schenectady residents of different forms of African descent and record fieldnotes in locations frequented by these groups in order to gain more first-person knowledge on the dynamics of the city both in modern terms and in the past.