Img_3694Four-year old Maya Williams, center, examines a display at the one-night Black History Month exhibit last night. Maya was joined by her sister Kayla, 10, at left and Amani Cureton, also 10.

About 150 people gathered Wednesday evening at the River Street Commons for a Black History Month event with unmistakable local ties.

Framed by depictions of African-American life in the mass media, the event focused on the life and work of T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist who was born a a slave and lived on what is now Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Preservationists are hoping to save the house.

Claire Serant, a journalism professor at St. John’s University who has spent hundreds of hours at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem researching Fortune’s work, spoke at the event about his envelope-pushing achievements and writings. He championed the rights of blacks, she said, but also wrote about discrimination against Jews and the lynching of 11 Italians in the American south, without a trial, for the killing of a police chief.

“People says Thomas Fortune was a militant,” Serant told the audience. “He was, but he was really a humanist.”

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