Myra B. Young Armstead, Editor. Mighty Change, Tall within; Black Identity in the Hudson Valley

Article excerpt

Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2003.

The Hudson Valley, so named because of the river that flows the extent of it, from as far north as the Lake George region south to New York City. Or, "in the popular mind the Hudson Valley may refer to those bucolic stretches of land sandwiched between New York City and Albany..." (p. 5). Mighty Change, Tall Within Black Identity in the Hudson Valley is an ambitious project that addresses the issues of transformation and continuity of black identity. As the book's editor stated, the "volume attempts to underscore the mighty change in the identity of blacks in the region over nearly 400-year period..." - from enslaved of the seventeenth century to multiethnic/multinational in the twenty-first century (p. 4). Yet in order to do this - given the dearth of more contemporary research on black identity in the Hudson Valley of "the popular mind" - the book had to alter the configuration of the region. Its valley includes Manhattan Island at the river's mouth, southern portions of Westchester County, and northeastern New Jersey.

The contributing authors, despite what can be described as the use of broad brush strokes to argue transformation and continuity of black identity in the Hudson Valley, nevertheless, have put together interestingly revealing threads that make up this historical and contemporary quilt on the Hudson Valley. Some of the threads seem out of place and the quilt as woven is surely not the definitive word. Those threads that seem out of place in terms of the valley as defined by that "popular mind," are the four chapters on New York City and the one on Yonkers, a suburb of the city. The Graham Russell Hodges' chapter, "The Emergence of a New Black Religious Identity in New York City and Eastern New Jersey, 1624-1807," although a thread that clearly falls within the purview of the book's title, creates more of a flaw than add to the symmetry of the quilt. The same can be said of the Paul Stoller chapter ("Spaces, Places, and fields: The Politics of West African Trading in New York City's Informal Economy") and Sherri-Ann P. Butterfield's chapter ("Something in Between: Locating Identity Among Second Generation West Indians in New York City"). …