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Buffalo's Civil Rights history honored on Martin Luther King, Jr Day

Sitting in the pews of the Michigan Street Baptist Church is to get a sense of the history of the building. A central part of Buffalo’s Black community for over 150 years, the church, along with the Nash House Museum, was given over to walking tours on Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Leading the tour was Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Chairwoman Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, who said this showcase is not only part of Buffalo’s history, but a part of American History, too.

“It’s just incredible that we have these structures so we can continue to tell these stories,” she said “And yes, it’s important because these folks had an impact, not only on things locally, but nationally. We know that Mary Talbert hosted the first meeting of the Niagara Movement, which was a precursor to the NAACP. And she, herself, was a member of the church.”

Wiley-Upshaw hopes these buildings can serve as beacon of hope to this new generation of Civil Rights activists.

“The kind of social mobilization and confrontation and willingness to put yourself on the line, harkens back to all of these past leaders,” she said. “So I kind of think that the new generation, the new leaders are on the right path and if we can be here to just continue to cheer them on along that, I think that that is a good thing.”

Wiley-Upshaw said her preservation coalition now has the funds to further stabilize the church, the work of which will begin in the spring.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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