Tag Archives: Abolition

North Star Underground RR Museum Opens for Season


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New York’s newest Underground Railroad museum kicked off its second season last week and will present a series of presentations this year entitled “Hot Spots of Anti-Slavery Activity in the North Country,” supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council of the Northern Adirondacks.

This Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, there will be tours of Underground Railroad sites in Peru and Keeseville at 9:30, both led by Don Papson.  There is a $10 fee; call 834-5180 to pre-register. Also, historic re-enactor Barbara Wass will portray Catherine Keese, the committed Peru abolitionist at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday.  Those events are free.


On June 2, during Museum Day festivities, the Museum will present, “The War Before the War,” about the radical abolition movement that responded to the Fugitive Slave Law and other pro-slavery leanings by the federal government leading up to the Civil War.

Jane Williamson, director of the Rokeby Farm museum in Vermont, will illuminate the organizing efforts that mushroomed in Vermont and Northern New York.

The North Star Museum first opened in May 2010, and drew over 4,000 visitors to the restored stone house overlooking Ausable Chasm, just a few miles from Lake Champlain. Education programs are offered for school children, both at the museum and in schools, and the museum shop boasts an extensive collection of books on slavery, abolition, the underground railroad and related topics. For further information, visit: www.northcountryundergroundrailroad.com.

New York’s Jehudi Ashmun, Founder of Liberia


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Thursday, April 21, marked the birthday of one of the most famous men you never heard of, and surely the least known of all North Country figures who once graced the world stage. It is also appropriate to recall his story at this time for two other reasons. It has ties to slavery and the Civil War as we mark the 150th anniversary of America’s darkest period. And, in relation to recent world news, it involves fighting for change in Africa.

If you’re well familiar with the work of Jehudi Ashmun, you’re in a very small minority. Even in his hometown, little has been done to mark his achievements other than a single roadside historical marker. And yet, if you look, you’ll find him in dozens of encyclopedias and reference books as an important part of African and Liberian history.

Jehudi Ashmun was born in Champlain, a small village in the northeastern corner of New York State, just a mile from the Canadian border. Early on, he proved capable of advanced learning, and after schooling in Champlain, he attended Middlebury College in Vermont at the age of 16, preparing for life as a Christian minister.

Ill health, a problem throughout his life, found Jehudi back home in Champlain during the War of 1812. On healthier days, despite his young age, he preached in the local church and organized a military company to protect the village from British attackers threatening from Canada.

After returning to schooling at Middlebury, he entered the University of Vermont. Graduating from UVM in August, 1816, Ashmun gave the salutatory address and presented “An English Oration upon the Philosophy of the Mind.”

Jehudi soon found employment as school principal and Professor of Classical Literature at the Maine Charity School, one of the first educational societies in the country. Guided by a strong Christian belief, he published extensively, including sermons, lectures, and essays.

Ashmun’s opinionated persona was not always well received, and six months after marrying Catherine Gray in October 1818, he resigned from the school and moved to Washington, D.C. There, he linked with the Episcopal Church for three years, studying religion, continuing to publish, and becoming alarmingly aware of the plight of slaves in nearby Virginia.

Christian doctrine deplored slavery, and the more Ashmun (a white northerner) learned, the more he felt compelled to act. He became an active participant in the American Colonization Society (ACS), a group that many supported with the best of intentions, but an organization that attracted a pro-slavery element as well.

To understand that dichotomy, it is necessary to at least somewhat grasp the situation in America around 1820. As a young nation proudly touting “all men are created equal,” the US was embarrassed by other countries pointing out in newspaper editorials the great hypocrisy of allowing slavery to exist for any reason within America’s borders.

By 1808, the importation of slaves had been strictly forbidden by federal law, but some southern states claimed the feds had overstepped their bounds. Still, a very powerful anti-slavery movement existed in America. The problem was—what constituted a solution?

Groups like the American Colonization Society faced an unusual number of arguments for and against their efforts. Many leaders, both black and white, believed all citizens should remain in the US and battle for full equal rights for all. Others, including many black leaders, felt that blacks would never be treated justly or be free of discrimination in America, and thus favored the establishment of a colony where they could flourish.

Some said that promoting colonization was simply a cover for the goal of ridding America of blacks. Others saw great promise in black colonists succeeding, and helping to spread the Christian faith across Africa. Many slave owners supported the society because they feared that freed blacks would urge those in slavery to rise together in rebellion. By sending them to colonies, the owners were removing rabble-rousers from their midst.

At the time, the idea of going to Africa did seem sensible to some blacks since that was their place of origin. However, by that time, many had been in America long enough to have children born here and had established roots. A great number preferred to stay in the US and face the devil they knew, rather than the uncertainties of life (the devil they didn’t know) in Africa.

At various times, plans were made for colonies in Canada, Mexico, Africa, the Caribbean, and in several Central American countries. Finally, a real effort to settle on Africa’s west coast was tried, but it failed. Another similar attempt was made within two years.

The second opportunity arose when the Georgia state legislature authorized its governor to sell about 40 slaves who had been brought to the state illegally. Money from the sale was destined for state coffers, but by law, before selling the slaves, the state had to allow anyone the opportunity to purchase freedom for the slaves or assume the expense of taking them to a colony.

In stepped the ACS, and it was 18 of those slaves who formed the bulk of the colonization effort in Africa. The leader of the expedition was Jehudi Ashmun, who avoided many debts by leaving the country, but whose devotion to the cause was beyond reproach. He also saw the opportunity to establish trade and perhaps find a way to pay his own financial commitments.

Throughout his life, Ashmun had been a deep thinker and an activist, but was frequently beset with periods of strong self-doubt. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine his thoughts when, arriving on Africa’s west coast on August 9, 1822, he found wretched living conditions and violent conflicts involving several regional tribes.

Adjacent to the British colony of Sierra Leone, he gained permission to land and establish a community. He managed interactions and informal agreements with several local tribes, but it soon became clear that they intended to set upon Ashmun’s group and destroy them.

Jehudi’s settlers were suffering badly from illness, and were certainly in no condition to defend themselves. Their position on the peninsula of Cape Montserado provided at least some natural protection, but their sickness was disabling, and the meager rations they shared were barely enough to sustain life. The future looked bleak for this fledgling enterprise.

Ashmun himself seemed near death at times, but feared more for his wife, who was dreadfully ill. She finally succumbed on September 15, barely a month after their arrival from America. Jehudi was devastated. There was great doubt that he could survive and carry on the mission.

Next week―the conclusion: A battle for the ages … twice! and one of the greatest all-time underdog stories.

Photos―Top: Jehudi Ashmun, native of Champlain, New York. Bottom: Ashmun’s Liberian settlement at Cape Montserado.

The Jehudi Ashmun story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Unique ‘Activist New York’ Exhibit Opens in NYC


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“Activist New York,” the inaugural exhibition in the Museum of the City of New York’s new Puffin Foundation Gallery, will examine the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s – and the nation’s – future. Centuries of activist efforts, representing the full spectrum of political ideologies, will be illuminated through a series of installations featuring 14 New York movements ranging from the mid-17th century to today.

The exhibition will feature historic artifacts and images from the museum’s collection as well as pieces on loan from other collections, along with interactive elements that enable visitors to explore and express their own views. For the first three weeks of the exhibition attendees will have a chance to view the original “Flushing Remonstrance,” the 1657 landmark document protesting restrictions against Quakers in New Amsterdam.

“Activist New York” begins and ends with questions of religious freedom, from the struggle for religious tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, to today’s debate over a Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero. In between, the exhibition examines a wide range of social movements that transformed laws and assumptions regarding race, gender, class, sexuality, economic justice, and other issues.

The Puffin Foundation Gallery is situated in a newly renovated and climate-controlled 2000 square foot south gallery on the Museum’s second floor, and named for the foundation that has supported the gallery with a gift of $3.25 million.

The exhibition unfolds through a series of 14 examples of New York activism:

1. Let Us Stay: The Struggle for Religious Tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, 1650-1664

The exhibition features the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest arguments for religious liberty and tolerance in American history.

2. Beware of Foreign Influence: Nativists and Immigrants, 1830-1860

This section explores efforts to prohibit or limit immigration and contain its impact on 19 th -century New York. Nativists fought to curtail the largely Catholic immigrant community’s access to citizenship, the vote, and public office. The section also illustrates the ways Catholic New Yorkers combated nativism by establishing their own independent institutions to support their community.

3. What Has New York to Do with Slavery? 1827-1865

While New York City was a center of the abolitionist movement, it was also home to many people who sided with the Southern slave owners. This conflict was dramatically revealed in the Draft Riots of July 1863, where the issues of class and race came to a head in a harrowing, violent confrontation. The exhibition chronicles the efforts of both sides of the debate.

4. New York is the Battleground: Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920

In the early 20 th century,New York became the epicenter for organizational activity of the national woman suffrage movement, with suffragists pioneering new methods of behind-the-scenes organizing and media-savvy publicity. The installation also documents the movement against woman suffrage through anti-suffrage images and messages published by aNew York lithograph firm.

5. Houses of Welcome: The Settlement House Movement, 1890-1925

Immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century faced overcrowding, illness, and poverty. This section of the exhibition shows how a new type of agent for change—the settlement house worker—combated those conditions by moving into slum neighborhoods to provide instructions in parenting, health, and citizenship.

6. I Am a Working Girl! Upheaval in the Garment Trades, 1909-1915

This installation examines the events that led to reform and improvement of deplorable workplace conditions, including the 1909 “Uprising of the 20,000,” an industry-wide strike by workers affiliated with the fledgling International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, and the 1911 Triangle Waist factory fire tragedy.

7. Art for the Masses: An Activist Theater, 1930-1945

This movement looks at the politically engaged New Yorktheater groups that used their art to confront Depression-era poverty, labor exploitation, political corruption, racial tension, and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe.

8. We Shall Not Be Moved:New York and Civil Rights, 1945-1964

This installation revealsNew York City’s role in the early Civil Rights struggle of the post-World War II era, from the “Boycott Jim Crow” and anti-lynching movements through the emergence of CORE and SNCC, to the Black Power era of the mid-1960s.

9. What’s Wrong with New York? Conservative Activism, 1962-1973

This segment of the exhibition looks at groups, such as “Parents and Taxpayers,” that were unhappy with a leftward drift in the city and blamed it for an increase in disorder, crime, and the swelling municipal budget. Many joined a new third party, the Conservative Party of New York, formed in 1962.

10. Stop the Wrecking Ball! Preserving Historic New York, 1955-1970

This case study shows how the loss of some of the city’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks fed the efforts of the early historic preservation movement and eventually led to the creation of New York’s groundbreaking Landmarks Preservation Law.

11. “Gay Is Good”: Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians, 1969-2012

This installation shows how the Stonewall Riots galvanized the modern gay rights movement in New York and led to the creation of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, and other organizations. The installation brings the story up to date with the successful campaign to secure the legalization of gay marriages in New York State.

12. “Don’t Move, Improve”: Reviving the South Bronx, 1970-2012

The South Bronx became an international icon of urban blight in the 1970s. This section of the exhibition examines grassroots advocacy groups, community organizations, and church congregations that took ownership of the rebuilding of their neighborhoods into livable, affordable communities.

13. Love Your Lane: Bicycle Advocacy, 1965-2011

Amid concerns about ecology, traffic congestion, and pollution, pioneering activists lobbied for changes in the traffic laws. Today, as part of the Bloomberg administration PlaNYC’s effort to build a greener, more sustainable city, bike lanes proliferate, as does agitation against for and against them, as this installation documents.

14. Park 51: 2010-2012

This section provides a detailed exploration of the controversy over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, which is reminiscent of the long and turbulent saga of activism surrounding issues of religious expression in New York City.

Interactive elements throughout the exhibition provide opportunities to dig more deeply and bring the historic stories up to date. A series of touch screens present a timeline of the history of activism in the city, with more than two hundred examples ranging from slave revolts of the 18th century to the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 to the woman behind the movement that led to New York’s 1978 “pooper scooper” law. Additional kiosks with touch screens invite visitors to explore the work of contemporary activist groups and send email messages to these groups expressing the visitors’ views on current activism. In addition, members of the general public may submit photographs of contemporary activist in the city to a photo blog housed on the Museum’s website (www.mcny.org) and carried live in the Puffin Foundation Gallery.

“Activist New York” has been organized by an exhibition team led by Sarah M. Henry, the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Steven H. Jaffe served as guest curator, and Christina Ziegler-McPherson as associate guest curator. The exhibition team was aided by the Puffin Foundation Gallery Advisory Committee, chaired by Peter G. Carroll, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and comprising scholars and activists Esther Cohen, Joshua Freeman, Victor Navasky, Bruno Quinson, Christopher Rhomberg, Tom Roderick, and Perry, Gladys, and Neal Rosenstein.

Photo: Picketers during a 1910 garment workers strike (Library of Congress)

Underground Railroad Conference This Weekend


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The 11th Anniversary Conference on the Underground Railroad Movement, sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region Conference, will be held at Russell Sage College in Troy, April 13-15th. This year’s conference, “The Underground Railroad Turned On Its Head – Old Themes, New Directions,” focuses on new research on the Underground Railroad, slavery, abolition and the 19th century. Old assumptions such as “There is little documentation of the Underground Railroad”, “The UGRR was a string of safe houses to Canada” and numerous other ideas are challenged by new research and interpretations.

The conference will feature:

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Educators’ Workshop

Opening Address – Manisha Sinha, PhD
“Fleeing for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves and the Making of American Abolitionism”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Keynote Address – Barbara McCaskill, PhD
“A Thousand Miles for Freedom: A New Take on the Old Story of William and Ellen Craft, the Georgia Fugitives”

Artists in Residence – Miles Ahead Jazz Quartet

Spectres of Liberty
Experience history – step into the recreated Liberty Street Presbyterian Church of Henry Highland Garnet

Over 20 Workshops, plus Vendors & Displays

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A bus tour of UGR Sites in Rensselaer County by Kathryn Sheehan, Rensselaer County Historian.

The Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region researches, preserves, and retells New York’s regional history of the Underground Railroad, highlighting the role of African-American freedom seekers and local abolitionists.

More information can be found online.

Civil War Lectures Set for Schoharie Crossing


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Schoharie Crossing State Historic site’s Enders House (adjacent to the Visitor Center at 129 Schoharie Street, Fort Hunter, NY, five miles west of Amsterdam, off Route 5S) will host a series of lectures on the Civil War, Wednesdays in April, 7:00 pm.

On April 4, the lecture series will begin with Montgomery County Historian Kelly Farquar, who will discuss “The Abolitionist Movement in Montgomery County,” a topic of her latest publication. Continue reading

Gerrit Smith Celebration Begins Peterboro Season


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Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) in Peterboro will announce plans for the 2012 Peterboro Heritage events at the annual Gerrit Smith birthday party on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro (Madison County). The doors will open at 1:00 pm followed by program announcements and updates at 1:30 p.m.

Norman K. Dann PhD, professor emeritus Morrisville State College and Smith biographer will present Gerrit Smith and the Civil War at 2 p.m. Dann’s program will be followed by birthday refreshments. Many programs have presented Smith’s significant role in igniting the Civil War through his radical abolition activities. This program will address more specifically what Smith was doing in 1862 during the second year of the Civil War, and the connection of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to Smith. The program is open for the public with a three dollar admission for adults, and free for students and 2012 GSENHL Stewards.

The annual party kicks off the observance of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. During New York Heritage Weekend, the Earlville Opera House and the 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend will present John Brown’s Ghost: From Madison County to Harpers Ferry at 7:30 pm Saturday, May 19 in Madison Hall on Scenic NYS Route 20 in Morrisville. Hugh C. Humphreys will welcome the audience with a brief description of Madison County’s role in the Civil War. Madison County Historian Matthew Urtz will show some faces of persons from Madison County who served in the Civil War, and letters from and to soldiers will be read. Performers Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino, well known for their musical renditions of Civil War songs, (especially the history of John Brown) will provide a preview for an expanded Civil War concert Four Seasons, Four Years ~ the Civil War: a Musical Journey, at the Earlville Opera House on Friday, June 8. Eleven New York musicians have assembled to perform Four Seasons for the four years of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

The 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend opens at 10 am on Saturday, June 9 and closes at 4 pm on Sunday June 10. The 77th NY Regimental Balladeers will present Hard Times Come Again No More: America’s Heart Songs at 8 pm on Saturday night. Civil War military and domestic encampments with sutlers, exhibits, Civil War roundtables, programs, skirmishes, entertainment, book-signings, children’s games, musical programs, reenactor units, town displays, and lectures have expanded to include newly developed historical interpretations. Dr. Milton C. Sernett presents Terrible Swift Sword and Madison County Historian Matthew Urtz shows Madison County Faces in the Civil War. The Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department will barbeque chicken on Saturday and the Peterboro United Methodist Church will flip pancakes on Sunday morning.

July 1 Dr. David Anderson will present Frederick Douglass’ reasons for his opposition for speaking about freedom on the Fourth of July. Emancipation Day on Saturday, August 4 is followed Sunday with Hometown Day, Family Day of Croquet, and an afternoon program on the Peter and William Still family by Leslie Gist Still.

On Equality Day Weekend (August 25 and 26) two programs featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be presented. Saturday evening, August 27 at 7 p.m. Hugh C. Humphreys will give an illustrated talk on the Great Cazenovia Convention of 1850. Ted Jackson speaks on his great grandfather abolitionist James Caleb Jackson on Saturday, September 8. The summer season closes with the annual Elizabeth Smith Miller In the Kitchen Bloomer Tea on Sunday, September 23.

The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum commemoration ceremonies for 2011 inductees Abby Kelley Foster, Jermain Wesley Loguen, and George Gavin Ritchie will be held at Colgate University on October 19 and 20, with tours on Sunday, the 21st in Peterboro and Syracuse.

Saturday evening, November 24 Joanne Shenandoah will pay tribute in concert to her ancestor Chief Skenandoah and his friend Peter Smith at Madison Hall in Morrisville.

Events for 2012 Peterboro Heritage are made possible, in part, with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, a State Agency, and the Cultural Resources Council, a Regional Arts Council.

The Peterboro Mercantile, a community heritage shop, the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL), and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) are open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 pm beginning Saturday, May 19 and ending Sunday September 23, for special events and tours, and by appointment. The GSENHL is a site on the National Park Service Network to Freedom (national Underground Railroad trail) and both sites are on the Heritage NY Underground Railroad Trail, a program of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Adult admission is three dollars. Students and 2012 Stewards are free. The projects are recruiting volunteers for the 2012 season. For more information and to check updates on programs: www.gerritsmith.org, www.abolitionhof.org, 315-366-8101, 315-280-8828.

Photo: A member of the 77th NY Regimental Balladeers plays on the green during Civil War Weekend.

Lincoln Author Harold Holzer Event to Focus on NYS


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Abraham Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer will be visiting the Albany Institute of History & Art to present the lecture “Lincoln and New York” on Sunday, February 26 at 2 PM. Following the lecture, listeners will have a pre-publication date opportunity to purchase and receive a signed copy of Holzer’s newest book, Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory.

As visitor, President-elect, and later as President and iconic martyr, Abraham Lincoln had an unusual and ongoing relationship with New York State. In turn, the Empire State forged a unique and important relationship with its wartime leader. Holzer examines the 16th President’s dealings with the nation’s most populous and important state, and the role New York played in the social, military, economic and technological upheavals of the Civil War.

Holzer will be available after the lecture to sign copies of his newest book, Emancipating Lincoln, which will be available for early sale prior to its publication on February 27. The book focuses on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and how its meaning has changed over time. It has received early acclaim from critics, being deemed “highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn about how freedom came to be” by the Library Journal.

Admission to this event is $10.00 per person. Seating is limited, so please purchase tickets ahead of time at albanyinstitute.org or in person at the museum Front Desk.

New York Celebrates Black History Month


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In the 19th century, New York State was home to some of the most powerful abolitionists. Because of its proximity to Canada, New York became an important destination and temporary home for many African Americans fleeing slavery in the South. Today you can visit the former homes of prominent abolitionists such as Gerrit Smith and Harriet Tubman and follow the trail of the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves to escape to the free states and Canada.

February is Black History Month and I LOVE NEW YORK is highlighting a remarkable period in history, the people who risked their lives to furtively abolish slavery, the sites you can visit to learn about them and the remarkable achievements that shaped our African-American heritage.

Here are just some of New York State’s many Underground Railroad sites:

Howland Stone Store Museum – Finger Lakes
The Howland family was very involved in abolition, women’s rights and world peace movements. This 1837 Cobblestone Store in the town of Aurora was an important station on the Underground Railroad. The museum preserves local, state and national history, where you’ll discover the stories of local sites involved in the Underground Railroad. The store is a vital part of the community and an eloquent reminder of the history of causes supported by the Howland family.

Harriet Tubman House – Finger Lakes
Harriet Tubman is the face of abolition. Known as the “Moses” of her people, Tubman embodied the true American ideal and spirit. A patriot, a war hero and instrumental in directing the Underground Railroad, she had the gift of touching everyone around her, earning praise and accolades from members of the U.S. Government and Queen Victoria of England. This historic site in Auburn, a tribute to the difference one person can make by caring for so many people, also includes the Home of the Aged, where she cared for the elderly during the last 50 years of her life. Her gravesite is nearby. The site includes the Home of the Aged where she cared for the elderly for the last 50 years of her life. Her gravesite is nearby.

Murphy Orchards – Greater Niagara
Stepping away from the classic colonial museum of the 1800s, Murphy Orchards, in the hamlet of Burt, offers an authentic example of the variety of stations that comprised the Underground Railroad. Charles and Libby McClew built the farmhouse, outbuildings, and barn that are all still used today and are believed to have been a part of the Underground Railroad from 1850 to 1861. The concealed chambers beneath the barn lend credibility and proof that this landmark served as an escape route for freedom-seeking slaves.

Fenton History Center – Chautauqua-Allegheny
Jamestown, New York is rich in Underground Railroad history and abolitionist activity. The Fenton History Center, located at the former mansion of Governor Rueben E. Fenton, is a community resource center for people of all ages to learn about the history of slavery and our nation. Governor Fenton was a close political associate of President Lincoln and an avid supporter of the abolition of slavery.

Old Fort House Museum – Capital-Saratoga
This landmark museum in Fort Edward was originally used as a fort during the French and Indian War. In 1829, a free and well-educated black man, Solomon Northup, along with his bride Ann Hampton, moved into the estate before Solomon was kidnapped and sold to slavery. Following his freedom and return home, he wrote a book entitled “Twelve Years A Slave”, considered to be as insightful on slavery and the north as the renowned “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.

LinkPhilipsburg Manor – Hudson Valley
In Sleepy Hollow visit one of the largest and best documented slave sites in the North, Philipsburg Manor. A thriving farming, milling and trading center that relied on a community of enslaved African Americans to operate the complex, the Philipsburg Manor community contributed a great deal to the Hudson Valley’s historical development. Take part in 18th century hands-on activities, discover the riveting story of enslavement in the Colonial North, and explore the food systems, textile production techniques and medicinal practices of Philipsburg Manor’s inhabitants.

John Brown Farm – Adirondacks
The assault of the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 was the brainchild of abolitionist John Brown, who planned to use captured arms in an extensive campaign to liberate slaves. Following his capture and hanging for his leadership in planning this attack, Brown was laid to rest at his farm in North Elba, near Lake Placid. Today, visitors to the site can participate in guided tours, re-enactments and other activities.

The Gerrit Smith Estate – Central New York
Gerrit Smith is considered by contemporary scholars to be one of the most powerful abolitionists in the United States. He supported the work of abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and John Brown. Located in Peterboro, just minutes away from the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, this valuable historic site provides tours, programs and a film presentation as well as special events and exhibits regarding the Underground Railroad.

National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum – Central New York
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro honors anti-slavery abolitionists, including their work to end slavery and the legacy of that struggle, and strives to complete the second and ongoing abolition – the moral conviction to end racism.

These are just some of the many landmarks throughout New York State that played a vital role in the slaves’ flight to freedom. This Black History Month pay tribute to the deeds and memory of the fascinating individuals who helped make freedom a reality for so many.

Take an Underground Railroad Tour
If you can’t decide which landmark to visit, consider taking a statewide tour of New York’s Underground Railroad heritage. In conjunction with I LOVE NEW YORK, tour operator Arena Travel is offering an Underground Railroad tour, May 5-17, 2012, to domestic and international travelers.

The Arena Travel Underground Railroad and Slavery in New York Tour tells the complete story of the African Americans’ struggle for freedom. From the gateway to freedom across the Niagara River into Canada, to early slavery in New York State, the figures and stories are all here to explore. Performances by Akwabaa, a performing arts and tour group in Rochester, tell the vivid story of the life of Frederick Douglass sheltering slaves in his home while he spoke out against the institution of slavery. Other stops on this Buffalo to New York City adventure include the homes of Harriet Tubman and Gerrit Smith, and Philipsburg Manor. Learn more about this exciting travel opportunity at www.arenatravel.com.

Peterboro Celebrates Black Heritage


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As Black History month commences, Peterboro, NY (in Madison County) is finalizing plans for 2012 programs that explore and explain the 19th Century history of African-Americans in the hamlet and its significance to the history of our nation.

On January 31st, the anniversary date of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery, the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Traveling Abolition Museum exhibit was transported from Case Library at Colgate University to Memorial Library at SUNY Cortland for Black History Month.

The exhibit had been installed at Colgate for Martin Luther King Jr. commemorations at the college. Milton C. Sernett Ph.D. professor emeritus Syracuse University developed the text and visuals for the traveling museum that cover the history of American Abolition from slavery in the Colonial era to the Civil War.

Dr. Sernett, a member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro, will also be presenting at SUNY Cortland on the Abolition Crusade in Upstate New York. Robert Djed Snead, a Jermain Wesley Loguen reenactor who performed at Loguen’s NAHOF induction in October 2011, will perform and present Loguen at SUNY Cortland. For the same month The History Center in Ithaca will be hosting the John Brown Lives! Timbuctoo exhibit during Black History Month. Timbuctoo explains Gerrit Smith’s plan to gift 3000 African-American men with 40 acres of land.

The 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend June 9 and 10, 2012 will join in the nation’s commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Military battles were not waged on Peterboro soil, but Peterboro was the center of human rights activities that waged war against slavery, and those activities led to the ignition of the Civil War. Dr. Sernett will present The Terrible Swift Sword: Abolitionists and the Civil War. Also, Alice Keesey Mecoy, will return to NAHOF to share insights into her great, great, grandfather John Brown. NAHOF will exhibit a copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation gifted by the New York State library. Lincoln presented his draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet on September 22, 1862. The New York State Museum will open an exhibit on September 22, 2012 about the Proclamation which was briefly owned by Gerrit Smith of Peterboro.

Sunday, July 1 at 2 p.m. at the Smithfield Community Center in Peterboro Dr. David Anderson of the Akwaaba Program at Nazareth College will portray Frederick Douglass’ in the delivery of Douglass’ famous Fifth of July speech. Saturday, August 4 the third annual 21st C. Emancipation Day will be held in Peterboro. On Sunday, August 5 Lesley Still Gist will detail the famous Underground Railroad work of William Still and his reunion with his long lost brother Peter Gist who came to Peterboro to seek help from Gerrit Smith. Saturday, August 18 at 7 p.m. Hugh Humphreys will present on the great Cazenovia protest against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Commemorations October 20, 2012 at Colgate University include the unveiling of Jermain Wesley Loguen’s banner for the Hall of Fame, as well as that of Abby Kelley Foster and George Gavin Ritchie for their risk-laden pursuit of freedom for slaves. Loguen’s afternoon symposium will be presented by Robert Djed Snead, and Snead will also re-enact Loguen during the evening celebrations.

Heritage New York Underground Railroad Trail and National Park Service National Historic Landmark exhibits on the Underground Railroad, abolition, and African-Americans of Peterboro are open from 1 – 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays May – September at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.

For more information refer to www.sca-peterboro.org, www.AbolitionHoF.org or 315-366-8101 as the season progresses.

Photo: Robert Djed Snead portrays Syracuse Underground Railroad station conductor Jermain Wesley Loguen at Loguen’s October 2011 Induction to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro.

New Book on John Brown: Midnight Rising


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In his new book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the story of Adirondack abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

Late on the night of October 16, 1859, Adirondack abolitionist John Brown led 18 well-armed men on a raid of the federal armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry and sparked a nationwide uprising against slavery. The principal goal of the raid was to free slaves, not attack and hold a Southern state. The plan was simple: capture about 100,000 muskets and rifles, ammunition, and other supplies from the lightly guarded federal facilities at Harpers Ferry, retire to the countryside and carry out nighttime raids to free Southern slaves. The raider’s believed the southern harvest fields would be filled with disgruntled and overworked slaves bringing in the crops, a perfect opportunity to turn them to revolt.

The raid might have succeeded, had Brown not made a serious error in allowing an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train the raiders had captured to proceed. The conductor alerted the main B & O office that abolitionists were attempting to free the area’s slaves. The word was immediately taken to B & O president John W. Garrett, who notified US President James Buchanan, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, and Major General George H. Stewart of the Maryland Volunteers that a slave insurrection was underway in Harpers Ferry. The worst fear of the southern slaveholders seemed to be at hand.

By about noon Brown’s last chance to escape into the countryside came and went – he was in command of the bridges, and held about 35 prisoners. Armed locals arrived and organized a makeshift attack with their own hunting guns. Then two militia companies arrived from nearby Charles Town – together they stormed the bridges and drove the half dozen or so of Brown’s men guarding them back.

Five raiders were captured alive. Seven initially escaped and five of them made it to ultimate freedom in the north; four later served in the Civil War. Ten men were killed. All but two were buried in a common grave on the Shenandoah River, across from Harpers Ferry. The lest resting place of Jeremiah Anderson remains unknown. Watson Brown’s body was given to Winchester Medical College where it remained until Union troops recovered it during the Civil War and burned the school in reprisal.

Brown was charged with murder, conspiring with slaves to rebel, and treason against Virginia (West Virginia was not yet a state) and after a week-long trial was sentenced to death in early November. He was hanged on December 2nd (John Wilkes Booth sneaked in to watch) and his body was afterward carried to North Elba in Essex County to “moulder in his grave.”

Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He also wrote Confederates in the Attic, the outstanding look at the Civil War’s continued legacy in the South. Midnight Rising follows John Brown’s plot from its very inception to the savage battle, and then to its aftermath as it galvanizes the North and pushes the South closer to secession.

New York History founder John Warren wrote about the raid in a series of posts on in 2009.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

New Yorkers and the Memory of the Civil War


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As New York’s State Historian, I often say that New Yorkers have long provided the country with some of its most informed leadership. Why? Because they understand and appreciate their state’s place in American history.

Take as a case in point the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War (1961-65). This was a time when some Americans were using their heritage to defy federal desegregation efforts. New York’s Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, however, used his state’s history for a far better purpose. He promoted civil rights and racial equality in America by joining with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others in celebration of the 100th birthday of a document owned by the New York State Library—Lincoln’s draft Emancipation Proclamation. Continue reading

Sernett and Humphreys Team for Abolition Lyceum


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Milton C. Sernett PhD has asked Hugh C. Humphreys to join the presentation of the Abolition Lyceum IV: Slavery, Law, and Politics for the annual National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) event Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate University, Hamilton NY. This lecture is fourth in a series of five lectures chronicling the history of American abolition from the Colonial Period to the Civil War which Dr. Sernett has delivered each year.

Humphreys and Sernett team up to examine the intersection of politics in the debates over American slavery and abolition. They will explore the legal and political aspects of the debate over slavery by highlighting watershed events such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Amistad Incident, the Great Fugitive Slave Convention held in Cazenovia in 1850, the political debate over the Compromise of 1850 and the struggles that took place in the Kansas Territory over the issue of “popular sovereignty” and slavery. Other topics of interest will be efforts of abolitionists to organize political parties and the rise of Lincoln and the Republican Party. Humphreys and Sernett will also be talking about the debates over the Constitution, the emergence of political abolitionism, and the role played by significant figures such as Gerrit Smith, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln. Humphreys will discuss the Dred Scott Case where the fate of Scott and his family went all the way to the Supreme Court. Several video clips will be shown.

Milton C. Sernett is Professor Emeritus of African American Studies and History, having taught at Syracuse University for thirty years. He has spoken widely on abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman. His books include North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom; Abolition’s Axe: Beriah Green, Oneida Institute and the Black Freedom Struggle; and Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, & History. Sernett is a founder and a member of the Cabinet of Freedom of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.

Hugh C. Humphreys is a retired Madison County judge and currently teaches a course on abolition law at Syracuse University. Humphreys researched and published Heritage #19 on the Great Cazenovia Convention for the Madison County Historical Society. Humphreys is a founder and a member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. He has generously shared his oratory, painting, and theatre talents with Peterboro heritage projects for two decades.

The Abolition Lyceum IV Slavery, Law, and Politics is twelve dollars at the door, or free with the Total Day Package for the annual NAHOF event. For more information and registration: www.AbolitionHoF.org, info@abolitionhof.org, 315-366-8101

This illustrated lyceum presentation will draw on images and text from the traveling exhibit panel “The Politics of Slavery and Abolition” that is part of the traveling exhibit of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. All eight panels of the exhibit will be shown for the first time following the Lyceum.

The Traveling Abolition Museum will officially open to the public at 11:30 a.m. in the Clark Room in the James C. Colgate Building at Colgate University. Dr. Sernett created the text and assembled the visuals for the traveling “walls” to chronicle American abolition in a similar way that Sernett’s lyceum series has done. Scott Hughes managed the fabrication and the installations. The mobile museum has been made possible by generous donations from the American International College, Norman K. Dann and Dorothy Willsey-Dann, The Gorman Foundation, Ellen Percy Kraly, the New York Business Development Corporation, Dr. Milton C. Sernett and Janet M. Sernett, Maryann M. Winters, and the Upstate Institute at Colgate University. The public is encouraged to attend the free exhibit.

Expelled Abolitionist Being Honored


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On the Hamilton NY campus from which he was expelled in 1847, George Gavin Ritchie will be honored in 2011. Ritchie’s expulsion from Madison University (now Colgate University) for his antislavery activities did not deter him from continuing to fight for abolition. Family, supporters, and others will gather in Golden Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 22, 2011 to participate in ceremonies to induct Ritchie into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro NY.

Nellie K. Edmonston & William E. Edmonston, Jr. write in their nomination of Ritchie to the Hall of Fame: “George Gavin Ritchie, editor of the first student newspaper at Madison University (at that time a Baptist Seminary; now Colgate University), was expelled for publishing his editorial, “Equal Suffrage and the Religious Press” (Hamilton Student, January 15, 1847) criticizing the voters and churches of New York State for not supporting equal suffrage for black males in the election of 1846. From this time forward his life was consumed with the cause of abolition.”

“In the face of public repudiation and humiliation by the faculty, he continued publication of the paper in Hamilton, NY, first as the Hamilton Student, then as the Hamilton Student and Christian Reformer, and finally as the Christian Reformer, an organ fearlessly devoted to abolition and other reforms. He advocated antislavery through editorializing, reprinting letters and articles from other abolition and mainstream papers announcing abolitionist meetings, and voicing support for his contemporary and colleague, Gerrit Smith. The Hamilton Student was the voice of abolition and reform in Central New York during its brief history.”

Born in Scotland in 1820, Ritchie died at an early age of 33 (Frederick Douglass’ Paper March 25, 1853). In those short years Ritchie preached antislavery from many pulpits in New York and served on local, state, and national anti-slavery committees. The Edmonstons will explain much more of Ritchie’s life and legacy in a lecture on George Gavin Ritchie at 2:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium, as part of the Upstate Institute Abolition Symposia during the afternoon of October 22.

The Ritchie induction to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) is the result of the first public nomination submitted to NAHOF. Nellie K. and William E. Edmonston have lived in Hamilton, NY for nearly 50 years. Both are retired teachers: Nellie was a Speech-Language Pathologist at the Sherburne-Earlville Central School and Bill is Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience/Psychology at Colgate University. Both have published in their respective fields; Nellie, professional articles and a language comprehension test for young children; Bill, professional articles and three professional books. From1989 to 2005 they had a small publishing company (Edmonston Publishing, Inc.) that specialized in original letters and journals of the American Civil War.

Nellie created the original and at the time only biographical article on upstate abolitionist George Gavin Ritchie as a presentation to the Hamilton Fortnightly Club in 1994 and as a contribution to the 1995 Hamilton Bicentennial Book. In 1997 Edmonston Publishing released Four Years in the First New York Light Artillery. The Papers of David F. Ritchie. David F. Ritchie was the son of George Gavin Ritchie, and it was through the publication of his Civil War papers that the Edmonstons became good friends with the Ritchie family.

With the development of the National Abolition Hall of Fame in 2005, the Edmonstons recognized the importance of nominating the local abolitionist and martyr to the cause, George Gavin Ritchie, whose story had lain in archival obscurity for nearly 160 years. Now his story will be properly preserved.

The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the “righting of Ritchie.” Admission to the evening induction ceremonies is $5 at the door. Admission to the 2:30 Ritchie is $5 at the door. (Admission to all four afternoon programs is $8.) Colgate students, faculty, and staff are free. Information and registration for other events of the day is available at www.AbolitionHoF.org, info@AbolitionHoF.org, and 315-366-8101.

Syracuse Abolitionist Inducted to Hall of Fame


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Jermain Wesley Loguen, famous “Underground Railroad King” of Syracuse, will be inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum at Saturday, October 22, 2011 ceremonies to be held at Colgate University in Hamilton NY. Milton C. Sernett Ph.D. professor emeritus of African American Studies and History, Syracuse University, provides a brief history of the new inductee:

Born into slavery in 1813 “Jarm” stole his master’s horse in 1834 and escaped to Canada West where he farmed for a few years. In 1837 he went to Rochester, NY and worked as a hotel porter. Later he attended Beriah Green’s abolitionist school at Whitesboro, NY and while there he started a Sunday school for African American children in Utica. He married Caroline Storum in 1840 and they had six children, one of whom (Amelia) married Lewis Douglass, the son of Frederick and Anna Douglass.

The Loguens moved to Syracuse in 1841. Jermain taught school and became a licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, serving congregations in Syracuse, Bath, Ithaca, and Troy. He was as much an abolitionist activist as a minister and became one of the nation’s most active agents of the Underground Railroad. He assisted the Rev. Samuel J. May, a Unitarian clergyman in Syracuse, with Underground Railroad work. The Loguen house near the intersection of Pine and Genesee Streets was a principal station on the Underground Railroad. Loguen placed letters in the Syracuse press openly discussing his activities and asking for donations to assist fugitives. Loguen is said to have aided more than 1500 freedom seekers.

Donna Dorrance Burdick, historian for the Town of Smithfield, relates, “In 1844 Frederick Douglass introduced Loguen to Gerrit Smith. On September 1, 1846, Loguen joined Henry Highland Garnet and Samuel Ringgold Ward as a recipient of common Peterboro property.” The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 brought Loguen’s response of, “It outlaws me, and I outlaw it.” Following his participation in the Jerry Rescue of October 1851, he was one of five African Americans indicted in the incident. He fled to Canada returning to Syracuse in the spring of 1852 and resumed his Underground Railroad activities.”

The Induction of Jermain Wesley Loguen begins at 1:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate University with I Owe My Freedom to the God Who Made Me: Jermain Loguen and the Struggle for Freedom presented by Carol Hunter PhD, professor of history at Earlham College in Richmond IN. Dr. Hunter’s 1989 doctoral dissertation at Binghamton University researched Loguen and the abolition movement in upstate New York. A revised and edited version of the work was published in 1993 as To Set the Captives Free: Reverend Jermain Wesley Loguen and the Struggle for Freedom in Central New York 1835-1872. Hunter’s lecture is one of the afternoon Upstate Institute Abolition Symposia programs supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.

Loguen’s official public nomination by Onondaga Historical Association, and others with Loguen connections, will be part of the October 22 evening ceremonies at 7 p.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate University. Loguen’s part in the Jerry Rescue of 1851 will also be included in John Rudy’s program The Jerry Level: Gerrit Smith and the Memory of the Jerry Rescue at 2 pm Satruday, October 1, 2011 at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0169. (Admission: $2)

The public is encouraged to attend the Loguen sessions. Admission at the door for each of the lectures and the induction ceremony is five dollars. (Admission for all four symposia programs is eight dollars.) Information and registration forms for the day-long induction event are available at 315-366-8101 and info@AbolitionHoF.org and www.AbolitionHoF.org.

Illustration: Portrait of Jermain Wesley Loguen created by artist Joseph Flores of Rochester NY for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum for the occasion of the induction of Loguen to the Hall.

Abby Kelley Foster Inducted into Halls of Fame


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Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Abby Kelley Foster will be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame on October 1st in Seneca Falls and into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) on Saturday, October 22 at ceremonies to be held at Colgate University.

Born in Pelham, MA January 15, 1811 Kelley was raised a Quaker and became a teacher at the Friends School in Lynn MA in 1829. In 1832, when she lived in Worcester, she was influenced by a speech from radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. She joined the Lynn Female Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1837, she, and others, gathered over six thousand signatures on anti-slavery petitions.

The Lynn Female Society named her a delegate to the first national Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in New York City. The following year, at the second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, Abby Kelley gave her first speech against slavery with a mob threatening to burn down Pennsylvania Hall.

Abby and fellow radical abolitionist Stephen Foster married in 1845 and bought a farm in Worcester MA. Abby gave birth to their daughter, Alla, in 1847. Kelley faced hostile audiences from within and from outside the abolition movement in her five decades of advocating for immediate abolition of slavery and for advocating leaving churches that did not condemn slavery.

At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 22, Stacey Robertson PhD. will present Abby Kelley Foster: A Radical Voice in the West, the first program in the annual afternoon Upstate Institute Inductee Symposia. Robertson states, “Abby Kelley Foster single handedly transformed the nature of the western antislavery movement in the 1840s. From her first visit in the summer of 1845 she inspired hundreds of abolitionists to reconsider their approach to the movement and embrace a more uncompromising position. Women found her irresistible and she helped to organize dozens of female anti-slavery societies in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. She also convinced several women to join her in the lecturing field, devoting themselves full-time to the movement. No other person impacted western antislavery more than Abby Kelley Foster.”

Dr. Robertson is the Oglesby Professor of American Heritage and the Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Bradley University (Peoria IL) where she has taught since 1994. She is the author of three books: Parker Pillsbury: Radical Abolitionist, Male Feminist (2000), Hearts Beating for Liberty: Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest (2010), and Antebellum Women: Private, Public, Partisan (American Controversies), co-authored with Carol Lasser (2010). She is the recipient of many teaching awards and research fellowships and has lectured at more than one hundred different venues nationally and internationally.

The Worcester Women’s History Project (WWHP) in Worcester MA will partner with NAHOF for the evening induction ceremonies at 7 p.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate. Lynne McKenney Lydick will present a one woman play Yours for Humanity —Abby which the WWHP. Members of the WWHP will also participate in the induction ceremony for Foster in the evening.

The public is encouraged to attend the Foster sessions. Admission at the door for each of the lectures and the induction ceremony is five dollars. (Admission for all four symposia programs is eight dollars.) Information and registration forms for the day-long induction event are available at www.AbolitionHoF.org or at 315-366-8101.

Photo: Abby Kelley Foster portrait created by artist Joseph Flores of Rochester NY for the abolitionist’s induction into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum at ceremonies on Saturday, October 22 at Colgate University, Hamilton NY.

20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend Set


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The Peterboro Civil War Weekend Committee has announced plans for the 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend to be held on June 9 and 10, 2012. The annual event coincides with the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War commemorated throughout the nation. Peterboro had a pivotal role in the ignition of the Civil War because of Gerrit Smith, who was an influential leader in anti-slavery efforts – a movement that led to the Civil War. Smith’s support of John Brown caused a direct ignition of the Civil War.

For two decades the Peterboro encampment has demonstrated many aspects of military and civilian life in the mid-1800s. In recent years exhibits and programs on abolition and the Underground Railroad have been added. The committee plans to develop more programs in 2012 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information: www.civilwarweekend.sca-peterboro.org

Photo: A camp scene from 2011 Peterboro Civil War Weekend.

Syracuse’s 1851 ‘Jerry Rescue’ Anniversary Event


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160 years ago on October 1st, a captured fugitive slave named Jerry was freed by a mob of Syracuse citizens. For seven years after that date Central New York abolitionists celebrated the Jerry Rescue with an event that commemorated its importance. In 1859 Gerrit Smith responded to the request of the Jerry Rescue Committee for him to speak with a refusal because people had not maintained the high level of commitment to abolition that the Jerry Rescue had demonstrated.

On October 1, 2011, exactly 160 years after the Jerry Rescue, John M. Rudy will present “The Jerry Level”: Gerrit Smith and the Memory of the Jerry Rescue at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 1, 2011 at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134.

October 1st, 1851, events in Downtown Syracuse drastically altered the course of the lives of countless Central New Yorkers. As abolitionists battered down the door to a Syracuse police station and freed the fugitive slave Jerry Henry, they embarked on a journey which would span the course of the next decade. The Jerry Rescue was a catalyst for Upstate’s abolition activity from 1851 until the dawn of the Civil War.

Among those who turned the freeing of one man on Clinton Square in Syracuse into mass action were Gerrit Smith and Jermain Loguen. Smith advocated living life to the “Jerry Level” regarding the need for radical action. Loguen took the Jerry Rescue as inspiration to become more active in the Underground Railroad in Central New York. Throughout the 1850s the two men grew more radical every year until, by 1859, civil war seemed inevitable.

On the event’s 160th anniversary, historian John Rudy will share some of the interesting tidbits of research that he unearthed during his thesis preparations, investigate Central New York in the turbulent 1850s, and recognize the enduring memory of the Jerry Rescue. Rudy’s thesis centers around four personalities who had connections to the Rescue. Daniel Webster, in his May 1851 speech in Syracuse which challenged the abolition community, leads off the study. The next chapter centers on Jermain Loguen, Syracuse’s “King” of the Underground Railroad. Third is a discussion of Gerrit Smith’s disillusionment with the Upstate abolition community over the course of the 1850s, and his eventual alliance with John Brown. The final chapter discusses Samuel May and the “death” of the Jerry Rescue spirit in Syracuse at the coming of the war. It seems that the abolition world, for about ten years, revolved around Syracuse and its personalities – Smith being key among that community of thinkers.

Gerrit Smith was one of the first five abolitionists to be inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005. Jermain Wesley Loguen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 22 in ceremonies at Colgate University.

A native of Pompey in Onondaga County, John Rudy has been studying the history of Upstate New York’s abolition community since 2005. John holds a Masters in Applied History from Shippensburg University and a Bachelors in History, with a minor in Civil War Era Studies from Gettysburg College. John currently lives in Gettysburg and works with the National Park Service’s Interpretive Development Program in Harpers Ferry, WV, creating training materials for park rangers across the entire park system.

The public is encouraged to attend the program at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road / 5304 Oxbow Road, Peterboro NY. Admission is two dollars. Students are free. This program is one of a series of programs provided by the Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark during 2011 and partially supported by a PACE grant from the Central New York Community Foundation. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information: Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0006 www.gerritsmith.org 315-684-3262 and National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0055 www.AbolitionHoF.org, 315-684-3262.

Photo: Jermain Wesley Loguen of Syracuse was one of the primaries in the rescue of Jerry McHenry from a jail in Syracuse on October 1, 1851.

Frederick Law Olmsted:Abolitionist, Conservationist, Activist


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Da Capo Press has recently published Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted by Justin Martin, the author of biographies of Alan Greenspan and Ralph Nader.

Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the most important historical figure that the average American knows the least about. Best remembered for his landscape architecture, Olmsted was also an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War.

Frederick Law Olmsted is best remembered as the pioneer of landscape architecture in the United States. From the US Capitol grounds and Boston’s Emerald Necklace to Stanford University’s campus and New York’s Central Park, Olmsted was an artist who painted with lakes, shrubs, and wooded slopes. His stature and importance as an architect has been paramount in previous biographies, but his role as a social visionary, activist, and reformer has been frequently overlooked until now.

Justin Martin’s research shows Olmsted’s life to be a striking blend of high achievement, prodigious energy, and personal tragedy. He played a crucial role in the early efforts to preserve Yosemite and Niagara Falls, and designed Boston’s Back Bay Fens not only as a park, but also as America’s first wetlands restoration. As a former sailor, scientific farmer, and failed gold-miner, Olmsted brought wildly varied experiences to his works and career. His personal achievements were shadowed however by misfortune — a strained marriage, tense family life, and psychiatric institutionalization.

Olmsted accomplished more than most people could in three lifetimes. As a park maker, environmentalist, and abolitionist he helped shape modern America. At a time when open space is at a premium, he’s left a green legacy in city after city across North America. His early understanding of our need for open spaces, as well as spiritual and physical restoration in nature, has been a significant motivator for generations of environmental conservationists since.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

The Gerrit Smith-Frederick Douglass Partnership


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It was an unusual partnership: a runaway slave and a wealthy New York landholder. Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass were drawn together by a shared commitment to ending slavery and guaranteeing equal rights for all. Their friendship began tentatively in the late 1840s at about the time Douglass launched his first newspaper, the North Star, in Rochester NY. It solidified in the early 1850s and contributed to Douglass’ acrimonious break with his original abolitionist associates, the followers of Boston editor William Lloyd Garrison. His growing ties to Smith enabled Douglass to leave the narrow ideological orbit of the Garrisonians and join the growing ranks of the northerners pursuing political antislavery tactics.

John R. McKivigan Ph.D. will speak further on his studies of this unique partnership during his keynote address The Gerrit Smith – Frederick Douglass Partnership for the annual dinner of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at the Hall of Presidents at Colgate University in Hamilton NY.

Douglass and Smith were two of the most influential, respected, and powerful abolitionists in our nation. Both reformers were among the first five persons inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro in 2005. McKivigan will focus on the collaborative work of these two famous men.

Dr. McKivigan received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University and is currently a professor of United States History at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. McKivigan, a respected scholar of the American anti-slavery movement, was an adjunct member of the History and Afro-American and African Studies Department at Yale University from 1979 to 1989 and series co-editor of The Frederick Douglass Papers 1989 to 1992. Since 1994, McKivigan has been the director of the Frederick Douglass Papers, a documentary editing project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. McKivigan co-authored research articles on Gerrit Smith as early as 1983 with such works as The Ambivalent Six, He Stands like Jupiter: The Autobiography of Gerrit Smith, and The ‘Black Dream’ of Gerrit Smith, New York Abolitionist.

The collaborations of Douglass and Smith will be revisited at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 23 at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro when Dr. McKivigan and Dr. Norman K. Dann walk together among the structures and exhibits on abolition and the Underground Railroad further discussing the partnership of the two men and the words and deeds that transpired from their times together in Peterboro over 160 years ago.

C. James Trotman Ph.D. will close the Upstate Institute afternoon symposia at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 22 in Golden Hall at Colgate University with a tribute to Frederick Douglass as the Pioneering Reformer. Dr. Trotman is professor emeritus and the founding director of the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University PA. Dr. Trotman presented for the Hall of Fame commemoration of Douglass in 2006.

The public is encouraged to attend parts or all of the annual National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum event. For the complete schedule and the registration form: www.AbolitionHoF.org or contact info@abolitionhof.org and 315-366-8101.

Stanton and Anthony: A World Changing Friendship


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In the spring of 1851 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were introduced to each other on a street corner in Seneca Falls NY. Immediately drawn to each other, they formed an everlasting and legendary friendship. Together, they challenged entrenched beliefs, customs, and laws that oppressed women and spearheaded the fight to gain legal rights, including the right to vote, despite fierce opposition, daunting conditions, scandalous entanglements, and betrayal by their friends and allies. Penny Colman weaves commentary, events, quotations, and personalities into her new book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World and into her program on the two famous women’s rights activists. Continue reading