Newly appointed (volunteer) Bronx historian to continue predecessor’s legacy

Lloyd Ultan stands behind a podium
Former Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan, pictured, has passed the baton to Angel Hernandez.
Photo courtesy Alondra Perez

Bronx history has entered its next chapter with a new borough historian.

Angel Hernandez, the president of 

“I’ve enjoyed my time as the Bronx Borough Historian,” Ultan said. “I’ve discovered through research a lot of things many people didn’t know about. With this information, I’ve published books and articles, and given lectures and tours. I’ve answered individual questions by phone, email, and on podcasts and conducted television and radio interviews, all with the hope of spreading the word on how great a place the Bronx really is.”

Hernandez, the newly appointed historian, isn’t a stranger to gathering history in the Boogie Down.

Hernandez started the Bronx Latino History Project in his former role as the director of Programs and External Relations for the Bronx County Historical Society and he helped secure almost $200,000 in capital funding from former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office in 2016 to start a digitization project for the society. In 2018, he created BronXcursions, which offers tours of the Bronx.

“Studying our beautiful borough’s historic past and sharing it with the world not only fulfills my duty to our great society but also invokes personal pride,” Hernandez said. “I know I have big shoes to fill, yet I am confident that in this special role in today’s Bronx, I will be able to forge connections from the past and convey them as valuable lessons for the future.”

Angel Hernandez, Vanessa Gibson and Lloyd Ultan pose together
From left, Angel Hernandez poses with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Lloyd Ultan. Photo courtesy Alondra Perez

The Bronx historian is a volunteer role appointed by the Bronx borough president. The historian is responsible for collecting historical data like archives, books and artifacts, analyzing themto determine their authenticity and significance and track historical developments in the borough, according to Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson’s office.

The historian also writes about the borough and educates the public.

When Gibson’s office advertised the application for the position, she was given flack on social media for it being unpaid.

“I’ll bet you’d get qualified people if you actually paid a salary,” tweeted Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Queens University of Charlotte. “Just a thought.”

Others on Twitter and Instagram were shocked that the position is unpaid.

“Please explain to your constituents why you decided to ask anyone to work for free,” the account @oneshotbuddy wrote. “Thanks in advance.”

Another called it exploitation.

While these comments went without replies from the borough president’s Instagram account, it’s not actually up to her whether the historian gets paid.

A New York state law requiring municipalities and boroughs to appoint a public historian specifies that the historians will serve without compensation unless the municipal board, or the mayor in New York City, decides to provide it.

The Brooklyn historian is also an unpaid role, Stephanie Guzman, of the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, told the Bronx Times. There is currently no historian associated with the Queens Borough President’s office, according to Chris Barca, the communications director. But the position was unpaid in the past.

The Manhattan and Staten Island borough president offices did not respond to inquiries about their respective borough historian positions.

There are nearly 1,600 government historians across New York state, according to the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

On the Instagram post advertising the role, various commenters endorsed Hernandez.

“There is definitely no one more qualified for this than (Angel Hernandez),” wrote one commenter with the username @the_life_bananas. “It’s a natural choice. Over many years, he’s demonstrated his passion for Bronx history and sharing his knowledge of it with the residents and youth of the borough in particular. It just makes sense!”

Gibson said Ultan, the former borough historian, has had an “immeasurable impact” on the borough.

“His passion for the Bronx is infectious, and his attention to detail and dedication to preserving its history is truly remarkable,” she said. “His work has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals, academic courses, and guided tours, and has helped put the Bronx on the map as a cultural destination.”

Hernandez, who is committed to preserving the borough’s history and creating new opportunities for future generations, will continue his legacy, Gibson said.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes