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Notable African-American Long Islanders in history

From composer John Coltrane to former New York Gov. David Patterson, these African-American Long Islanders have made contributions in a variety of fields that in many cases resonated far beyond Nassau and Suffolk.

Judge Francel Trotter Bellinger

Judge Francel Trotter Bellinger of North Babylon became
Photo Credit: Newsday / Daniel Goodrich

Judge Francel Trotter Bellinger of North Babylon became the first black woman to serve as a judge in Suffolk County District Court on March 4, 1991. (Here, Bellinger is pictured on Jan. 18, 1990.)

Rev. Calvin O. Butts lll

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts lll, pastor of
Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts lll, pastor of the Abyssian Baptist Church in Harlem, who grew up in Queens, went on to become president of SUNY Old Westbury. (Here, he officiates at Old Westbury's graduation ceremonies on May 18, 2008.)

John Coltrane

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, pictured in this undated
Photo Credit: AP

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, pictured in this undated photo, lived in Dix Hills from 1964 until his death at Huntington Hospital on July 17, 1967.

Hazel N. Dukes

Hazel N. Dukes, a native of Alabama, moved
Photo Credit: Newsday / Alan Raia

Hazel N. Dukes, a native of Alabama, moved to Roslyn in 1956, where she fought housing discrimination and eventually helped to elect the first black member of the Roslyn school board. A lifelong activist, Dukes is President of the NAACP New York State Conference and a member of the organization's National Board of Directors. (Here, Dukes, then supervisor of transportation for NY State's Office of Economic Opportunity, speaks on Dec. 30, 1968 at a public hearing about the need for improved bus service in disadvantaged neighborhoods).

Julius Erving

Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. J was born
Photo Credit: Newsday / David L. Pokress

Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. J was born in East Meadow and is a graduate of Roosevelt High School. (Here, he drives to the basket for two of his 51 points as the Nets took on the Spurs at Nassau Coliseum on January 18, 1976.)

Mayor Jim Garner

Hempstead Village Mayor Jim Garner, a republican, was
Photo Credit: Newsday / John Keating

Hempstead Village Mayor Jim Garner, a republican, was Long Island's first black mayor, running the state's largest village from 1988 to 2005. (Here, he speaks to a crowd protesting a demolition project in the village on Aug. 10, 2000.)

Dorothy Goosby

Dorothy Goosby of Hempstead Village was the lead
Photo Credit: Newsday / Dick Yarwood

Dorothy Goosby of Hempstead Village was the lead plaintiff in a 1988 lawsuit that forced the town to change from an at-large voting system, which the suit charged disenfranchised minority voters, to six councilmanic districts. The case took 12 years to resolve. Goosby went on to become the first African-American woman elected to the Town of Hempstead Board on Feb. 1, 1999.

Lee A. Hayes

Lee A. Hayes of East Hampton served as
Photo Credit: Newsday / David L. Pokress

Lee A. Hayes of East Hampton served as a Tuskegee Airman during World War ll. Despite his certification as a bomber pilot, Hayes told Newsday that racial bias stopped him from gaining employment as a commercial pilot after the war. (Here, Hayes, who died in 2013, is seen on Sept. 22, 1999, holding photos of his time as a Tuskegee Airman.)

George A. Jones

George A. Jones of Roosevelt began his devotion
Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

George A. Jones of Roosevelt began his devotion to public service in 1939, when he joined the National Guard at age 16. He served in the guard until 1970 and was promoted to brigadier general in retirement. He joined the Army and served in World War ll and the Korean War, and was a New York City firefighter from 1947 to 1967, when there were few African Americans in the ranks. Jones worked for Nassau County for 30 years, retiring as director of equal opportunity employment and minority business enterprise officer. (Here, Jones, who passed away in 2016, is seen on July 13, 2015, after the Nassau County legislature approved spending $22,000 to fund a monument to him at the American Legion's Post 1957 in his hometown.)

Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil

Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil of Hempstead was one
Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil of Hempstead was one of the four college students who started the lunch counter sit-ins at the Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC, on Feb. 1, 1960. The nonviolent protest of segregated counters sparked a national movement. (Here, McNeil is pictured on February 15, 2010, with his James Smithson Bicentennial Medal that he had received earlier that month.)

Eddie Murphy

Comedian and actor Eddie Murphy is a graduate
Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas R. Koeniges

Comedian and actor Eddie Murphy is a graduate of Roosevelt Senior High School. (Here, he visits teacher his former teacher David Better in a history class on Nov. 16, 1981.)

Soledad O'Brien

Journalist Soledad O'Brien grew up in St. James,
Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Journalist Soledad O'Brien grew up in St. James, the daughter of an Afro-Cuban mother and a white Australian father. "When you grow up biracial," O'Brien, a graduate of Smithtown High East, said, "you spend a lot of time kind of thinking about where you fit in the world." (Here, O'Brien emphasizes a point at a meeting with the media at Stony Brook University on Feb. 16, 2015.)

Gov. David Paterson

Hempstead High School and Hofstra Law School graduate
Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Hempstead High School and Hofstra Law School graduate David Paterson became New York State's first black governor in 2008 after the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Paterson was also New York's first African-American lieutenant governor, and the first visually impaired person to address the Democratic National Convention. Here, Paterson is seen at a town hall meeting in Brooklyn on March 8, 2010.

Richard Robertson

In 1949, Richard Robertson became the first African-American
Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In 1949, Richard Robertson became the first African-American to join the Town of Huntington's police force. Before joining the force, Robertson served in World War ll and also played outfield for a Negro League team, and was briefly signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Here, Robertson is seen on March 27, 2014, at his Huntington home, holding a photograph of himself accompanying a young girl across the street when he was a policeman.)

William Willet

William Willet, center, rose through the ranks of
Photo Credit: Michael E. Ach

William Willet, center, rose through the ranks of the Nassau County Police Department to become its first black police commissioner. (Here, Willet, who lived in Westbury until his death at North Shore University Hospital at Glen Cove in 2003, is congratulated on his nomination for the position by supporters at the Nassau County Legislature on March 13, 2000.)

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