New archway marks Buffalo's African American Heritage Corridor

Sep 16, 2019

Leaders from across the City of Buffalo celebrated the dedication of the African-American Heritage Corridor Archway on Michigan Avenue on Monday. The archway is located between William Street and Broadway, a significant stretch of African American history in Buffalo.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

The Michigan Avenue Baptist Church was a notable stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves fleeing to Canada. WUFO was the first black-owned radio station in the city and the Colored Musicians Club served as a union hall back when unions were segregated.

Common Council President Darius Pridgen said he used to ride his bicycle up Michigan as a child and had no idea of its cultural significance. He wants the city to be known throughout the world for the cultural and historical connotations between the archway and corridor.

“I think it is so wonderful to celebrate the diversity we are seeing,” he said. “But especially to celebrate people of color coming together, African people, to do something of this magnitude.”

Pridgen said Buffalo Public Schools seventh and eighth graders will get to learn about the area as part of the My Brother’s Keeper’s curriculum.

Archway Designer Valeria Cray
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

The archway is bookended by a woman and child at one end and a man on another. Artist and activist Valeria Cray designed the archway and said the bookends have specific meanings.

“The woman that’s on the archway, she represents a strong woman who has had to carry her out of slavery,” she said. “The baby on her back is coming out of slavery. The baby in her stomach will be born into freedom. The man that’s on the left, he represents the men, the strength that he had to carry his family through so many issues so they could be free.”

Cray wants the archway to represent all people who have gone through slavery throughout history, and for people who have come to find a new home in the United States. She said fighting for freedom is what freedom is all about.