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Black History Month Events At Suffolk County Historical Society

Originally Posted: January 24, 2012

James T. Johnathan. (Courtesy Photo: The James T. Johnathan Family)

Riverhead - The Suffolk County Historical Society is pleased to present the following special events in honor of Black History month:

James T. Johnathan, Photographer

An exhibit featuring reproductions of original photographs by James T. Johnathan (1887-1966), a pioneering African-American entrepreneur who documented the diverse hamlet of Bay Shore for more than half a century.

A self-taught photographer, Johnathan moved to Bay Shore from Harlem in 1916 with his wife and children. He chronicled the Bay Shore community's everyday and special events from his photography studio on Union Street (now Union Boulevard). He served as the Bay Shore School District's official photographer, and photographed local weddings, portraits and civic events. Regarded as Bay Shore's first African-American entrepreneur, this Renaissance man was also a barber, the owner-operator of a restaurant, and the head of his family musical group that featured his six children. The group, "Johnathan and His Rhythm Stars," played at the 1939 World's Fair and the Apollo Theater. The photographs on display are a sampling of the 120 images in his family's private collection. They transcend race and are a testament to Johnathan's status in the community.

 • Opening Reception: Friday, February 3, 2012, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
 • On Display through February 29, 2012
 • Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Special Event: Honoring Tuskegee Airman Lee Hayes

Tuskegee Airman Lee Hayes. (Courtesy Photo: Lee Hayes Private Collection)

Join us as we honor the achievements and challenges of one of the country's first African-American airmen, WWII pilot Lee Hayes, of East Hampton. The Suffolk County Historical Society will present Hayes with an honorary plaque, and Hayes will give a first-hand account of his unique experiences as an Army Air Corps bombardier.

In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because many believed they lacked qualifications for combat duty. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

 • Wednesday, February 15, 10:30 a.m.
 • Refreshments at 10:30 a.m., followed by program from 11 a.m. to 12 noon

For more information, contact the Suffolk County Historical Society at 631-727-2881. The Suffolk County Historical Society is a private, non-profit organization, and an Authorized Agency of Suffolk County, that receives partial funding from Suffolk County, Steve Levy, County Executive.

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