About the New York State Commission on African American History

About the New York State Commission on African American History



More than 400 years have passed since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619. This marked the beginning of a period of hundreds of years during which people from Africa were involuntarily taken from their homelands and brought to the colonies that eventually became the United States. They were forced to endure lifetimes of enslavement and discrimination.

New York State recognizes that African American and Black New Yorkers still suffer from disparate outcomes in health, economic prosperity, public safety and general welfare and is committed to ending such disparities.

New York State will ensure that the wide-ranging contributions, achievements and culture of African American and Black New Yorkers are uplifted and recognized for their beneficial impact on the health, economic prosperity, public safety and general welfare of all New Yorkers.

About the Commission

About the Commission

Partnering with community-based organizations, the New York State Commission on African American History will bring New Yorkers together through events, cultural programming, scholarly research, and other activities that promote a greater understanding of the history and achievements of African Americans and people of African descent throughout the State.

The Commission is comprised of fifteen individuals. The New York Secretary of State and the Commissioner of Education are named in Executive Order 15 to serve as ex officio members of the Commission, with the Secretary of State specifically designated to serve as the Commission’s Chair. Seven individuals are appointed by the Governor; two members are appointed by the Temporary President of the New York State Senate; two members appointed by the Speaker of the New York State Assembly; one member appointed by the New York State Senate Minority Leader; and one member appointed by the New York State Assembly Minority Leader.

The ex officio members are:

  • Secretary of State and Chairperson of the New York State Commission on African American History Robert J. Rodriguez: Robert J. Rodriguez serves as the 68th Secretary of State for the State of New York. Mr. Rodriguez was nominated to the position by Governor Kathy Hochul in November of 2021 and confirmed by the New York State Senate in March of 2022. Mr. Rodriguez is a uniquely accomplished leader and former legislator, with civic and legislative successes that have been focused strategically on investing in and developing public-good infrastructure projects, creating good-paying jobs; and addressing financial disparities for historically underrepresented minorities and low-income communities.
  • Chancellor Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr. (Designee of Commissioner of Education Dr. Betty A. Rosa): Lester W. Young, Jr is serving his fourth term as Regent At Large, The University of the State of New York. In January 2021, Dr. Young was unanimously elected by his peers to be Chancellor. Dr. Young has made creating opportunities “where every student can be successful” the guiding principle of his more than 50 years of public service. A career educator, Dr. Young served as a teacher, guidance counselor, supervisor of special education, principal, Associate Commissioner with the New York State Education Department, and Superintendent of Community School District 13. He also led the first NYC Office of Youth Development and School Community Services. A recognized educational leader and innovator, he was responsible for establishing some of the more successful high schools and middle schools in New York City and reproducing the nationally recognized Algebra Project and Comer School Development Program. Dr. Young’s commitment to helping improve outcomes for boys and young men of color led to the establishment of the NYS My Brother’s Keeper initiative and under the leadership of the NYS Legislature, New York State remains the only state in the nation to have the My Brother’s Keeper initiative enacted into NYS law. Continuing his commitment to public service, in 2014 Dr. Young was appointed to the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. He is a founding member and Trustee of the Adelaide L. Sanford Institute, a Trustee for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and co-chairs the Community Advisory Council for Boys and Girls High School. He is a Life Member of the National Alliance of Black School Educators and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He has also served on the advisory boards for Eagle Academy High School and the New York Office of the Children’s Defense Fund, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Dr. Young volunteers as a mentor to principals and aspiring leaders throughout New York City. He has been recognized by many local, national education, and civic education organizations for his professional contributions.

Governor Hochul's appointees include:

  • Dr. Anne C. Bailey: Anne C. Bailey is a writer, historian, and a Professor of History at SUNY Binghamton. Bailey is committed to a concept of "living history" in which events of the past are connected to current and contemporary issues. She is also concerned with the reconciliation of communities after age-old conflicts like slavery, war, and genocide.
  • Ms. Joy Bivins: Bivins is the Director of the Schomburg Center in New York City. Bivins was appointed Director for the Schomburg in 2021. Prior to this, Bivins worked at the Schomburg as the Associate Director of Collections and Research Services. Bivins is the first woman to run the Schomburg since Jean Huston stepped down in 1980. Prior to joining the Schomburg, Bivins served as the chief curator of the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. She provided content and design oversight for its inaugural exhibitions. Prior to the IAAM, Bivins was the Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Chicago History Museum, where Bivins oversaw and managed its team of curators and historians. Bivins began her career as exhibition developer of Chicago History Museum's Teen Chicago project. Bivins has a MA from Cornell and a BA from Michigan.
  • Dr. Kishi Ducre: Ducre is an Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Syracuse University. Ducre is author of two books. Ducre's first book was on gender, race, and justice in Syracuse. Her subsequent publication focuses on environmental and food justice and the connection to the school to prison pipeline. Ducre received her PhD from Michigan in 2005 and began teaching Syracuse shortly thereafter. Ducre has a MA from Maryland.
  • Dr. Hazel Dukes (Vice-Chair of the Commission): Dukes is President of the NAACP New York State Conference and a Member of the NAACP Executive Committee. Dukes is President of the Hazel Dukes Consulting Firm. Dukes received her BA from Adelphi and completed post grad work at Queens College.
  • Ms. Jennifer Jones Austin: Jones Austin is the CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. As CEO, Jones Austin focuses on anti-poverty, policy and advocacy for an organization that is comprised of 170 member agencies and faith partners. Specifically, Jones Austin is noted for work to bring greater understanding to the link between race, poverty, law, and social policy in America. Prior to becoming CEO, Jones Austin served as Senior Vice President of the United Way of New York City. In addition to this, Jones Austin has both state and local experience. Jones Austin was Deputy Commissioner for NYC Administration for Children Services, and a Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief in the Attorney General's office. Jones Austin is the author of Consider it Joy, a memoir that reveals her personal account of a life-threatening illness and how it was overcome. Jones Austin has BA from Rutgers, an MA from NYU, and obtained her JD from Fordham Law School.
  • Dr. Henry Taylor: Taylor is a Professor at the University of Buffalo where he focuses on historical and contemporary analysis of issues surrounding the black and Latino community. Within this framework, Taylor's research also focuses on these issues in Cuba, the Caribbean Islands and Latin America. Lastly, Taylor is concerned with the redevelopment of shrinking cities and metropolitan cities, with a focus on social, economic, and racial justice. He has a BS from Tennessee A&T State, an MS from University of Tennessee, and a MA and PhD from SUNY Buffalo.
  • Dr. Laurie Woodard: Woodard is an assistant professor of history and black studies at CCNY. Her research focuses upon the intersection between the cultural and political realms and employs interdisciplinary methodologies, drawing from cultural and political history, critical race theory, and gender studies. She was the recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and PSC CUNY. Her study of the life and work of performing artist and civil and human rights activist Fredi Washington, A Real Negro Girl: Fredi Washington and the New Negro Renaissance, will be released by Oxford University Press in the spring of 2023.

New York State Senate President Pro Tempore Andrea Stewart-Cousins appointees are:

  • Dr. Christina Greer: Dr. Greer is an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, Lincoln Center campus. She specializes in American, black ethnic and urban politics as well as quantitative methods and public opinion. She was the 2018 Fellow for the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University Silver School of Social Work. In her book, Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, she investigates the increasingly ethnically diverse Black populations in the US from Africa and the Caribbean. Dr. Greer is currently finishing a manuscript on Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, and Stacey Abrams. She is the co-host of the New York centered podcast FAQ-NYC and is the host of The Blackest Questions Podcast with TheGrio.com and writes a weekly column for The Amsterdam News, one of the oldest black newspapers in the U.S. Dr. Greer received her BA from Tufts University and her MA, M.Phil and her Ph.D in political science from Columbia University.
  • Dr. Malik A. Small: Dr. Small is a middle school principal in the community of East New York Brooklyn with over 15 years of experience in educational leadership, both in charter as well as district schools. Dr. Small is a passionate advocate for social justice, restorative practices, culturally responsive education, equity in schools and empowering children, families and community to close both the opportunity gap as well as the exposure gap. Dr. Small is a public speaker and frequent guest and panelist in forums that include The Heather B Show, The Raw Perspective, the WhyTry Podcast, & The Dr. Selma B Show. Dr. Small is also a proud member of the Off School Grounds Coalition. Dr. Small also sits as a board member on the Mount Vernon Youth Board as well as a member of Eagle Foundation/BERC Pilot Design Team for the Education Equity Action Plan. Dr. Small is currently working on several books and was recently published in the National Association of Secondary School Principals Journal. Lastly, Dr. Small is the CEO of the Acacia Consulting Group & Acacia Productions.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appointees are:

  • Mr. Reginald René: Biography coming soon
  • Dr. John R. Torrey: Dr. Torrey is an assistant professor of philosophy and a contributing professor in Africana Studies at Buffalo State College. His primary research interest is the interconnection between moral arguments for reparations for Black people and their political limits in America. He has also done work in applied ethics, philosophy of education, and pre-college philosophy. In addition to publications on reparations, he has published on the theoretical underpinnings of Black Lives Matter. Dr. Torrey currently serves on the Academic Advisory Board of PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization). In 2020, he was appointed to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's Commission to Recommend Police Policy and Advance Social Reconstruction. He was selected to the Board of Ethics for the City of Buffalo in 2022. He holds a BA in philosophy and Spanish from Morehouse College and an MA and Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Memphis.

New York State Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay appointee is:

  • William E. Berry Jr.: Founder and CEO of aaduna, Inc., a non-profit company that seeks to identify new and emerging writers and artists, especially creative people of color through a thrice annual publication called aaduna. He served in various roles at universities and colleges including senior academic, executive and student affairs administrative assignments, considers himself to be an activist educator, change agent, and academician interested in the dynamics of empowerment, diversity, sustainability, culture, and organizational effectiveness. He served as assistant dean at SUNY Stony Brook; directed Antioch University’s undergraduate and graduate programs; served as dean of student affairs at Malcolm-King College, Harlem, NY, and served under three presidents at Rockland Community College. Other stops include Cayuga Community College, York College and Briarcliffe College. Currently, Mr. Berry is a consultant to the Auburn Enlarged City School District (AECSD) assisting in the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan development and implementation, as well as incorporating the NYSED Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework Initiative throughout the DEI district plan. He holds an undergraduate degree in history from Lehman College, a masters in Afro-American Studies from Boston University, and completed doctoral level coursework in Urban History at New York University. He resides in Auburn, NY.

Executive Order

Executive Order

On March 9, 2022, Governor Hochul signed Executive Order No. 15: Establishing the 400 Years of African American History Commission.

Read the Executive Order

Contact Us

Contact Us

We want to hear from you!

For questions, comments, or suggestions please fill out the Commission's online form.