Eleanor Roosevelt “We Make Our Own History” Forum

At the opening of the Mid-Hudson Bridge between Poughkeepsie and Highland on Aug. 25, 1930, featuring Eleanor Roosevelt with L-R: Col. Frederick Stuart Green, Ralph Madjeskie & David E. Moran, designers of the bridge. (CCC)

If Eleanor Roosevelt were still around today, it’s a fair bet that she’d be taking an interest in the activities of the Catharine Street Community Center in Poughkeepsie. And in fact, she did support the organization in her lifetime: You can even see a photo of America’s great first lady with a group of young people on the steps of the Center in 1937 on its website.

Founded near the beginning of the 20th century to provide young women of color with opportunities for civic and community engagement, the Center is known today as the go-to place for needy Poughkeepsians of all ages facing life crises like homelessness or HIV/AIDS. It still serves children and youth, offering Pre-K, afterschool and summer enrichment programs and even a squash club, and its esteemed Poughkeepsie Boys’ Choir has performed for the likes of British royals.

To benefit this linchpin of the community, each year the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and the Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park collaborate with the Catharine Street Community Center to present a series of public events known as the Eleanor Roosevelt “We Make Our Own History” Forums. The title comes from a quote from Eleanor’s last book, Tomorrow Is Now (1963), in which she goes on to say, “It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves.”

The voices that will combine harmoniously to kick off the first in the 2013 Forum series this Sunday, February 24 at 2 p.m. at the FDR Library’s Henry A. Wallace Center are those of the Marist College Gospel Choir. Following the musical selections, historian Cathy D. Knepper will speak about her recent book Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six. The book deals with a notorious 1948 case in which six black men were convicted by an all-white jury of the murder of a white shopkeeper in Trenton, New Jersey, based on what was later discovered to be trumped-up evidence. Best-known as the author of the 2004 collection Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters to Eleanor Roosevelt through Depression and War, Knepper also wrote Greenbelt, Maryland: A Living Legacy of the New Deal. The program will begin with a reception and book-signing at 1:30 p.m.

A second Forum is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, featuring Hari Jones, assistant director and curator of the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum. The program will begin with a performance by the Marist Singers Freshman Women’s Choir, after which Jones, author of For Light and Liberty: African Descent Spies of the Rebellion, will discuss the role of African American women in the Civil War.

Preregistration and an admission fee are required: $25 for one or $40 for both events. Call (845) 486-7745 for registration information. Proceeds will benefit the Catharine Street Community Center and the education programs of the Roosevelt Library. To download the registration form, visit www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/publicprograms/calendar.html.

Eleanor Roosevelt “We Make Our Own History” Forums: Cathy D. Knepper on the Trenton Six, Sunday, February 24 & Hari Jones on African American women in the Civil War, Sunday, March 10; both dates 1:30 p.m. reception/book-signing, 2 p.m. song recital/lecture, $25 one event, $40 both, Henry A. Wallace Center, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, 4079 Albany Post Road (Route 9), Hyde Park; (845) 486-7745, www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/publicprograms/calendar.html.

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  1. Wow sorry I missed this event… I grew up going to parties at Catherine street… Who knew it was so historical.. Awesome

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