Tag Archives: African Americans

The Cambridge Black History Project Honors Black Trailblazers at the Library on January 26

Date & Time:
January 26, 2023
Reception: 6-7 pm
Talk: 7-8 pm
In Person and Virtual
Lecture Hall, Main Library

Join us to celebrate the official launch of CBHP’s new series of Trailblazer Bookmarks, which honors the extraordinary lives of Black Cantabrigians whose accomplishments have often been overlooked. An evening of music, mingling, and discussion will salute these individuals whose influence reaches far beyond our city limits. Eight new bookmarks will be unveiled:

Barbara Ward Armstrong, Artist, Musician, Creator
Olive Benson, Innovative Hair-Care Entrepreneur
Calvin Burnett, Daring Artist and Gifted Teacher
Dr. June Christmas, Pioneer in Public Health
Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Faith and Action
Johnny Hodges, Jazz Saxophonist Extraordinaire
Kittie Towle Knox, Cycling Pioneer and Champion Racer
Gus Solomons Jr., Contemporary Dancer, Innovator, Mentor

The opening reception will feature music by jazz and classical musician Joel LaRue Smith, followed by a program recognizing these and other remarkable individuals.  Free illustrated bookmarks will be available. Registration is required.


The Black Population of Cambridge by Census Year, 1790 – 2020

George Washington Lewis Jr. family at 47 Parker
Street. Photo ca. 1900. The Lewis Family, a large extended family, were a well known African American family who first established roots in Cambridge in the early 19th Century.
Census Year Total PopulationNumber of Black ResidentsPercent of Population

*includes West Cambridge (1 person)
*includes 41 listed as Mulatto and 99 listed as Black

1790, 1800, 1820, 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, 1960, 1980, 2000: from Slavery and Its Aftermath in Cambridge by Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission, 13 January 2021. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/citymanagersoffice/monumentsadvisorycommittee/Slavery_and_its_Aftermath_in_Cambridge.pdf.

1810: Total from column, “all other free persons except Indians not taxed,” in 1810 census

1830: Total from column, “free colored persons,” in 1830 census

1850: Counted total from race column in the 1850 census

1870: Census totaled from race column in the 1870 census. Column totaled as “colored” and includes Black and Mulatto. Ward 1: 87; Ward 2: 626; Ward 3: 9; Ward 4: 82; Ward 5: 18. Total 822.

1890: Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part I Population, Department of the Interior, Census Office, 1892. Cambridge is on page 552. Available here: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Compendium_of_the_Eleventh_Census_1890_P/L2tVWSA9xUAC?hl=en&gbpv=1

1900-1910: Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915, edited by William Loren Katz, 1968. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000053752499&view=1up&seq=104&skin=2021&size=125&q1=cambridge1950: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1950/population-volume-2/38840572v2p21ch4.pdf.

1910-1930: Negroes in the United States, 1920-1932, by United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1935. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047636300&view=1up&seq=83&size=125&q1=cambridge

1970: 1970 Census of Population, Characteristics of the Population, Massachusetts, 1973. Available here: https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1970a_ma-01.pdf

1990: Comparison of Cambridge, MA. U. S. Census Short Form Results:
1980, 1990 & 2000
, Cambridge Community Development, 17 May 2004. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_1980to2000_sf1_comp.pdf

2010: Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010
Demographic Profile Data
, U.S. Census Bureau, 27 June 2011. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_2010_sf1_profile.pdf

2020: Cambridge: Population and People, U.S. Census Bureau. Available here: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=1600000US2511000

Cambridge Population: From Cambridge, Massachusetts Wikipedia Page, Demographics. Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge,_Massachusetts#Demographics

One of CPL’s Black History Month pioneers

The Cambridge Public Library is offering an excellent lineup of events – lectures, author visits, poetry readings, panel discussions, movies, and book displays – for Black History Month. Our social media accounts will also be buzzing this month with facts, quotes, photos, and other content related to black history and culture. Follow @cambridgepl on Twitter, and pay particular attention to the hashtag #blackhistorymonth, to learn more.

One of the originators of African American cultural programming at the Cambridge Public Library coinciding with the nationwide observances then known as Black History Week, as well as our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations, was librarian Jerome T. Lewis. Lewis was the Associate Director of the Cambridge Public Library from 1970 until his death in 1976. He was a native son, having grown up in Cambridge and graduated from Ridge Technical High School, where he was a dedicated scholar and a track and field star, in 1941. (He was also the grandson of George Washington Lewis, the steward of Harvard University’s Porcellian Club for 45 years, whose portrait still hangs in that most exclusive of Cambridge enclaves.)

Profile of "Athlete of the Issue" Jerome Lewis from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

Profile of “Athlete of the Issue” Jerome Lewis, from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

After graduating from Colby College with a degree in history and government, he worked in the libraries of Harvard from 1946 to 1959. He earned a degree in library science from Simmons College in 1949. Upon leaving Harvard, he held leadership positions in the Newton Free Library and the library of Bryant & Stratton, a Boston business college, before returning to Cambridge in 1970. In addition to his library work, he was active in a number of community groups and was appointed a member of Cambridge’s Civic Unity Committee.

Shortly before his death from cancer at the age of 54, Lewis created the Jerome T. Lewis Scholarship Fund, to provide funds annually to two Cambridge public high school students on the basis of their contributions to the black community. He is also the namesake of the Lewis Room at the Central Square Branch. It was dedicated, appropriately enough, during Black History Week celebrations in February 1977.

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977