CUNY Dominican Studies Institute presents “First Blacks in the Americas”


Many thanks to the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute’s Anthony Stevens-Acevedo (assistant director) and Sarah Aponte (chief librarian) for sharing the news about the first phase of the bilingual platform “First Blacks in the Americas” / “Los Primeros Negros en las Américas.” This is a great, new educational resource. [The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute is also the author of a pioneering, NEH funded online platform launched three years ago for the learning of the deciphering and reading of the often cumbersome early modern Spanish scripts, the “Spanish Paleography Digital Teaching and Learning Tool,” available at]

According to the CUNY team, altogether, the platform includes 383 pages of manuscripts, 379 pages of transcriptions, 291 bibliographic entries, 131 glossary definitions, 111 embedded images, 98 pages of translations, 76 pages of English comments, 75 pages of Spanish comments, 53 old maps, 28 links to other entities on blackness, 20 pages of summaries and 10 pages of description of the website.

Press Release (The City College of New York): The first digital platform in academia presenting a comprehensive history of the Americas’ earliest African inhabitants is now live. “First Blacks in the Americas/Los Primeros Negros en las Américas,” a bilingual archival resource in English and Spanish, is the product of The City College of New York- based CUNY Dominican Studies Institute.

Led by Ramona Hernández, professor of sociology in City College’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, CUNY DSI is the nation’s first university-based research institute devoted to the study of people of Dominican descent around the world. The core of its new resource comprises a collection of 72 archival document packages. They contain an equal number of manuscripts from 16th century La Española, the Island now shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The selected material documents in various ways the presence of the black-African population and their descendants that lived in the island-colony (the first European outpost in the Americas in modern times) during the first 100 years of colonization. It is the first platform to make this kind of collection of sources available on the internet to the general public.

“This platform, several years in the making by our institute, is another milestone contribution to the effort to democratize access to historical information that belongs to all of us who live in the Americas,” said Hernández. She headed the team of researchers and paleographers that developed the platform. It included Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, DSI assistant director and an historian, and Sarah Aponte, DSI chief librarian, who coordinated the team. Undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral researchers from CCNY and The Graduate Center, CUNY, also participated in the project.


Other press information: Stevens-Acevedo also explains that the website has begun to be disseminated by some important institutions as the Redial Network of Latin-Americanists in Western Europe ( ), the Hispanic American Historical Review’s Facebook page ( ) and Archivo Histórico Provincial de Sevilla, España ( ).

There is also a short interview by New York 1 about the platform available at

The Atlanta Black Star published a story/interview about the website on December 28 that may be viewed at:

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