Larry's Blog: NYC woman's home holds a treasure trove of African-American history

Larry C. Mullins
January 20, 2020 - 4:22 pm
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Ever walk into a room, where you’re immediately thrown back into a time and place years removed? For a minute, I had to look out the window of a home (on Staten Island) to remind myself, that I was still in New York, 2020, and that I was only in a time machine, courtesy of a black history lover/trailblazer.

Got to visit the home…make that museum…of Ms. Elizabeth Meaders on Staten Island. Family, when I tell you that she has about the biggest private Black History collection I’ve ever seen in my life, you can take THAT to the bank. The Smithsonian has got nothing on Momma Meaders. Her three-story home has just about every pre–and post–civil war genre, chronicling the black experience ever. There are entire corners of her house devoted to civil (and “uncivil” rights, i.e. the KKK), black social and civil wars (actual weapons the soldiers used on the battlefield). And then there are the music genres and the political and sports icons in African-American history. For decades, Ms. Meaders has traveled the world, collecting memorabilia, artifacts and tons of effects (some of it actually signed by the icons themselves).

 

And just speaking with her, you could tell that she is yearning for some philanthropist to come along and take her “museum” off her hands; she’s run out of space and says history is now chasing her, (and she’s trying to hide from it, because she’s run out of room). The timing is good, because last October, a Bronx city councilman talked about spearheading a task force to create an African-American history museum here in the city. I’d say this would be one heckuva start, as far as securing pieces to fulfill such a endeavor. I also learned that Ms. Meaders grandfather was an activist on Staten Island (who also happens to be the namesake of the William J Morris Junior High in the borough). It’s no surprise that Ms. Meaders actually taught at that school for a while. She also has an aunt who is a trailblazer, having written THE book about African Americans on Staten Island. Her ancestors were also the last known slaves to be freed on Staten Island.

You can probably tell from this blog that I was in “history heaven”…listening and reminiscing with this amazing woman and her amazing display of the African-American experience. Gotta tell ya, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit, if we see the name “Elizabeth Meaders” as a major contributor to any Black History Museum in New York or anywhere else in the near future.