On Thursday, February 17, we will have the opportunity to learn about Northport’s Black history from Thelma Jackson-Abidally, a local historian and author. In her impeccably researched book, African Americans of Northport: An Untold Story, Ms. Abidally chronicles the lives of the Black community in and around Northport.
Ms. Abidally was born in Selma, Alabama in 1957 and later moved to East Northport, where she worked for over twenty years in the Northport-East Northport School District. She began researching the role and impact of Black residents since the turn of the last century, and learned, among many other interesting things, that a small group of residents came together and built the A.M.E. Church on Church Street in 1910. (That congregation is now located in Huntington.) Ms. Abidally also learned that Booker T. Washington, the Black educator, author and activist, spent his summers in a house in Fort Salonga during the early 1900s and would shop along Northport Village’s Main Street. These are just a few of the interesting and important events documented in her book.
Alongside the numerous contributions made by Northport’s Black community, African Americans of Northport: An Untold Story also reveals the pervasiveness of racism that Black residents experienced in Northport, Booker T. Washington being one of them. Ms. Abidally writes about Northport’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, including information about a recruitment event in 1924 and their torching of the Kent family’s house on 16 Makamah Beach Road in 1935. The Kents were one of very few Black families living in Northport at that time. Of course, those events are overt acts of racism and violence against Black residents and there are other, more subtle, expressions of racism that Ms. Abidally writes about in her book.
African Americans of Northport: An Untold Story is enthralling. It gives the reader a different lens through which to view the community; that lens, of course, is the local Black experience.
Not in Our Town (NIOT) Northport will host Ms. Abidally’s virtual visit; you can register now at www.niotnorthport.org. Her book is available for purchase from the Northport Historical Society and for loan from the Northport-East Northport libraries.
Molly Feeney Wood
Editor's note: Molly Feeney Wood is a founding member of NIOT Northport.