Huntington's African American Heritage on Display

Students gather at one of the displays in Whitman's main entrance. Joining the students from right to left: Superintendent Dave Bennardo, Principal Kathie Acker, Ms. Irene Moore, Ms. Cynthia Quinlan, and Ms. Jacqueline Harris.
Students gather at one of the displays in Whitman's main entrance. Joining the students from right to left: Superintendent Dave Bennardo, Principal Kathie Acker, Ms. Irene Moore, Ms. Cynthia Quinlan, and Ms. Jacqueline Harris.
When you look at these photos you realize that you've probably driven by this house many times.
When you look at these photos you realize that you've probably driven by this house many times.
Ms. Irene Moore, discusses some of the Samuel Ballton homes in Greenlawn.
Ms. Irene Moore, discusses some of the Samuel Ballton homes in Greenlawn.
Ms. Moore (left) and Mr. Hughes (right) show the students photos of Booker T. Washington’s Home in Fort Salonga.
Ms. Moore (left) and Mr. Hughes (right) show the students photos of Booker T. Washington’s Home in Fort Salonga.
Town Historian Robert Hughes talks about the success of Samuel Ballton, known as the Pickle King of Greenlawn.
Town Historian Robert Hughes talks about the success of Samuel Ballton, known as the Pickle King of Greenlawn.

To help celebrate National African American History Month, Huntington Township historian Mr. Robert C. Hughes, along with Ms. Irene Moore, Chairperson of the African American Historic Designation, were invited guests of the Walt Whitman High School’s African American History Club.  The two gave a presentation about the rich and diverse African American history in Huntington. “It is our Council’s goal and objective to help educate the public and increase awareness of the values and contributions of African Americans in the town,” said Ms. Moore. Whitman’s African American Heritage Club Advisor Ms. Cynthia Quinlan agrees, saying, “I want my students to remember at least one fact that was shared with them today and that our town holds so much of our country's history.” 

Historian Hughes took the students back in time to the lives of Huntington’s more famous African Americans, like Jupiter Hammon, America’s first African American published poet, and Samuel Ballton, who became the “Pickle King of Greenlawn.” “What you may not know about Samuel is that just like in the movie Django Unchained, Mr. Ballton escaped from slavery during the Civil War but went back to rescue his wife.” Samuel and Rebecca Ballton settled in Greenlawn in 1873. “Samuel was a real entrepreneur,” said Mr. Hughes.

‘He was a farmer, homebuilder, and real estate developer. He ran a stage coach and a general store, and his family are still well respected members of our community.”  Mr. Ballton built numerous houses in the Greenlawn area. As many as eight unmarked homes are still standing today, with families living in them.

Sojourner Truth traveled and stayed in Huntington for several days at a time in the 1840s for Bible meetings and helped spread the word of emancipation. Booker T. Washington, a noted educator who was the very first teacher at the famed Tuskegee University in Alabama, frequently traveled by train to Fort Salonga to his summer retreat overlooking Long Island Sound. The famed jazz musician John Coltrane made his home on Candlewood Path in Dix Hills, where he composed one of his most famous pieces “A Love Supreme.” He lived there until his death in 1967. “Music was a huge part of life in my house as a child, and jazz was introduced at a young age,” said Ms. Quinlan. “I'm excited to see the renovation of the Coltrane house into a museum. This is where great music was created and played.”  

When Whitman’s African American History Club Advisor Ms. Cynthia Quinlan was taking a train from Huntington recently, she noticed the incredibly rich historical presentation inside the main waiting room.  It was then that she reached out to Ms. Moore and Mr. Hughes and asked them to share the contributions that African Americans have made to the Huntington community.  “There is so much history right here in our backyard,” said Ms. Quinlan. “The students learned the rich African American history of Huntington. They now have an awareness of the history of places that they pass daily.”