GUIDLERLAND: A piece of local African-American history has
received state recognition. While residents have long called
the neighborhood the Promised Land, the state will now recognize
it as the Rapp Road District.
The designation by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation is due to one woman's efforts. The
district will be on the state register, and may then be placed
on the National Register of Historic Places, said Emma Dickson,
who spearheaded the effort.
"I jumped up and down," said Dickson upon learning
the news. It took seven years to achieve the distinction. State
markers will be placed at each end of the district, marking
a neighborhood of modest, well-kept homes, many of them built
by their original occupants.
Dickson, herself a second-generation resident of Rapp Road,
told the Enterprise for an article about the unique enclave
last year, "It is important to have people recognize this
community and the importance of it to the city of Albany. It
is important history of African-Americans who migrated to the
North." She told the story of how her neighborhood was
African-American settlers came to the Albany area from the South
during the 1930's where they had lived as tenant farmers,
paying a share of their crops as rent for the use of the land.
Many, including Dickson's parents, left during what became known
as the Great Migration. They left Shubuta, Miss. in the '30's,
'40's and '50's to seek a better life. They often were cheated
by landowners in the South and felt trapped because they could
not afford to leave.
The escape route for the sharecroppers was paved by Reverend
Louis Parsons who brought them to Albany. Landing in the south
end of the City, many found they missed farming and were unhappy
with urban life. Some wanted to return to the South but were
encouraged by Parsons to remain. He and Reverend Tolliver, from
Albany, bought land in the Pine Bush that stretched from Gipp
Road to Washington Avenue. The land soon became a settlement
for the people from Mississippi.
"At that time, there was nothing here. There were tall
pines, land that looked just the way it did where they had come
from in Shubuta," Dickson said last year. Soon people
began building homes and settling in what became known as the
In February of 2000, the Albany County Legislature issued a
proclamation recognizing the formation of the community, honoring
black sharecroppers from Shubuta. The date was proclaimed as
"The Day of the Promised Land."
The recent ceremony to name Rapp Road an historic district took
place on Friday Sept. 13 in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy. Dickson
laughed at the date and place.
"I said to myself, 'I don't care where it is.- I
don't care what's there. And I don't care when it is. I'm going
to be there.'" The cemetery was selected because
the Garrett Memorial Chapel there was also being nominated for
the state historic register.
Sites are listed on the National Register for their significance
in history, architecture, archaeology, and culture. Evaluators
look for integrity of location, design, setting, materials,
workmanship, feeling, and association. Four general guidelines
First, if the site is associated with events that have contributed
to the broad patterns of American history.
Second, if the site is associated with the lives of historically
Third, if the building embodies the distinctive characteristics
of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the
work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents
a distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual
Fourth, if the site has yielded or is likely to yield information
important in prehistory or history
The Rapp Road District is the only district to be named in Guilderland
on the state register other than Route 146 in the village of
Samuel and Henrietta Fantroy, original Rapp Road settlers, attended
the ceremony with Dickson. The Fantroys live in one of the original
homes of the settlement, which Samuel Fantroy built after World
War II. The highlight of the day, said Dickson, was to hear
Fantroy say, with tears in his eyes, “I just thank God
to see this.”
Printed in the October/November 2002 Newsletter