About the Commission
The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor is a nationally and internationally recognized Buffalo neighborhood that serves as the focal point of residents’ and visitors’ experience for learning about Buffalo’s rich African American history through its vibrant neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, unique structures, historical markers, people and institutions, as well as its significant impact on local, national and international history.
Although the most concentrated portion of the corridor is along Michigan Avenue from Ferry Street on the North, past the Medical Campus, Broadway Street continuing to South Division Street, the entire Heritage Area is much more than just a few blocks along Michigan Avenue (The Michigan Street Corridor - Image Right). The Heritage Area is a rich composition of locations across Buffalo, and it embodies themes of Freedom, Cultural Expression and Self-Determination, spanning time and transcending a single geography.
The time periods celebrated by the Michigan Street African American Heritage Area include the Abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement and several cultural and artistic renaissance periods.
The Heritage Corridor’s festivals, cultural events and artistic programming draw residents, national and international tourists, scholars and artists, writers, storytellers, poets, dancers, and actors to a thriving, community of historic urban scale.
HISTORY OF THE COMMISSION
The Michigan Street Corridor in Buffalo, NY, has been the heart of the African American community for more than 185 years. Starting with the formation of the Michigan Street Baptist Church in 1836 as the epicenter of the local abolition movement, the following decades would see the Corridor as Buffalo’s stage for desegregation of schools, the Civil Rights Movement, the Jazz Age, and more. Unfortunately, by the 1970s Urban Decay had begun, and iconic buildings in the corridor began to be torn down. The few remaining buildings are the work of early preservationists in the 1970s-1990s.
To fight against urban blight, extreme redlining and represent underserved neighborhoods, in 2007 a piece of NYS Legislation created a historic preservation area on Buffalo’s east side and established the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission (MSAAHCC) to manage the Corridor. The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor is one of twenty-one Heritage Areas designated by the New York State Legislature. This legislation outlined the Heritage Corridor of the east side of Buffalo, located between Broadway, Eagle, Elm, and Nash to William Street, William Street (east) to Pine Street, and Pine Street (south) to Eagle. This area directly corresponds with the Corridor's Founding Cultural Anchors.
With the sponsorship of now, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and her procurement of a legislative grant for $75,000 in state funds following the designation of the heritage corridor area, the commission was formed and both the voting and non-voting members of the commission were appointed by the Governor. The first commission meeting was held in December 2008.
Governor Cuomo’s most recent investment in the East Side Avenues along with Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes’ continued investment and tireless advocacy of the Corridor has allowed the Commission to begin to see their long dreams and visions become realities.
Equally, US Representative Brian Higgins, NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Legislator Chairperson April N.M. Baskins Mayor Byron Brown, City Council President Darius Pridgen, and Empire State Development have believed in the Corridor’s significant historic and economic impact to the City of Buffalo. These individuals’ continued support of the Commission’s mission and vision allow us to serve as the connector of the past, present, and future for the historic neighborhoods within the Corridor and the overall success of our Queen City.
The MSAAHCC has been operating as a commission since its creation in 2007 with the goal of becoming a self-sufficient nonprofit organization. After thirteen years, the commission is finally in the place it needs to be a successful organization and will be transitioning on January 1, 2021 to an independent nonprofit fully capable of managing the historic district.