“The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
These were Frederick Douglass’ unyielding words from his momentous “Fifth of July Speech”* to the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall in 1852.
Douglass had been asked to speak on Independence Day but with entrenched slavery supported by the recently adopted Fugitive Slave law, how could he? After all, he declared with authority, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, extended to us….I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.” But he was included “within the pale” of another anniversary which was annually observed by African Americans in the State, and it was a chief reason why he chose to speak the following day. During this pre-war period, the July 5th Movement captured and shaped blacks’ identity as a cohesive, active community. Continue reading
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) commemoration ceremonies for the 2016 inductees will be held Saturday, October 21, 2017 at NAHOF, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY.
The inductees are Rev. John Gregg Fee, Beriah Green, Angelina Grimké, and James W.C. Pennington. This is the last year of the two year induction-commemoration cycle. Beginning in 2018 inductions and commemorations will be completed in one year.
At 3 on Saturday, October 21 Christopher L. Webber, who nominated Pennington to the Hall of Fame, will present James W.C. Pennington: Pastor and Abolitionist for the Abolition Symposia. Webber, the author of American to the Backbone: The Journey of James W.C. Pennington from Slavery to World Leader, will use his research to present Pennington’s remarkable story. Pennington was born in slavery in Maryland in 1808. At the age of 19, scared and illiterate, James escaped from slavery. Moving finally to Brooklyn he found work as a carriage man and took advantage of night schools. In 1829 Pennington participated in the first Negro National Convention of which he became the presiding officer in 1853. Pennington served congregations in Long Island, Hartford, and Manhattan and traveled three times to England, Scotland, and the continent of Europe as an anti-slavery advocate. He was so respected by European audiences that the University of Heidelberg awarded him an honorary doctorate, making him the first person of African descent to receive such a degree. Pennington was accepted as the first black student at the Yale Divinity School and was accepted for ordination in the Congregational Church. April 26, 2014 Yale University celebrated the opening of the James W.C. Pennington Christian Ministry Center. Continue reading
This October, a class offered through SUNY Adirondack’s Continuing Education division will provide details on the life of Solomon Northup. Northup was a free black man who was kidnapped from Saratoga Springs, New York in 1841, and sold into slavery.
Following his release in 1853, Northup penned a narrative, Twelve Years a Slave, which was the basis for the Academy Award winning film, 12 Years a Slave. The title of the class is “The Real Solomon Northup from 12 Years a Slave,” and the instructor is local author David Fiske. Continue reading
Families, friends, presenters, and supporters of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark gathered from across the state and country to participate in the 8th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Day August 5, 2017 in Peterboro NY.
The sun shone on the outdoor gathering in front of the barn whence carriages drove to carry fugitives to Oswego to cross by boat to Canada. Organizers Jim Corpin, Carrie Martin, and Max Smith, opened the morning session. Continue reading
On August 5th the 8th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Day at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) will address the land grant project which became known as “Timbuctoo.”
This last day of the exhibit Dreaming of Timbuctoo will open at 9 am. The exhibit includes Smith’s deed book of 119 pages listing, by county, the people who received land gifts.
In 1846 abolitionist Gerrit Smith recruited thirteen men to find 3,000 free black men to receive 40 acres of land each, in order to enfranchise them in New York State. Rev. Henry Highland Garnet from Troy mobilized the most grantees. Dr. James McCune Smith and Charles B. Ray found more than 1,000 African-American males from New York City to acquire land from Smith. Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen was an active abolitionist in Syracuse, and as Smith’s agent he encouraged men from the Central New York region to make the trek northward. After Rev. Loguen toured the settlements he published his account in Frederick Douglass’ The North Star which recognized the worth of the land Smith was granting. Continue reading
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He also played a central role in the European adoption of Indian or Native American slavery.
When we think of slavery in early America, we often think of the practice of African and African-American chattel slavery. However, that system of slavery wasn’t the only system of slavery that existed in North America. Systems of Indian slavery existed too. In fact, Indians remained enslaved long after the 13th Amendment abolished African-American slavery in 1865.
In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, Andrés Reséndez, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis and author of The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in Americas (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), leads us on an investigation of this “other” form of American slavery. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/139.
Susan Stessin-Cohn and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini’s book In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley 1735-1831 (Black Dome, 2016) documents 607 fugitives from slavery in the 18th and 19th-century Hudson River Valley region of New York State through the reproduction and transcription of 512 archival newspaper notices for runaway slaves placed by their enslavers or agents.
Also included are notices advertising slaves captured, notices advertising slaves for sale, notices offering to purchase slaves, and selected runaway notices from outside the Hudson River Valley region. Nine tables analyze the data in the 512 notices for runaways from Hudson Valley enslavers, and the book includes a glossary, indexes of names, locations, and subjects, 36 illustrations, 5 maps from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a foreword by A.J. Williams-Myers, Black Studies Department, SUNY at New Paltz. Continue reading
The institution of African slavery in North America began in late August 1619 and persisted until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in December 1865.
Over those 246 years, many slaves plotted and conspired to start rebellions, but most of the plotted rebellions never took place. Slaveholders and whites discovered them before they could begin. Therefore, North America witnessed only a handful of slave revolts between 1614 and 1865. Nat Turner’s Rebellion in August 1831 stands as the most deadly.
In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, Patrick Breen, an Associate Professor of History at Providence College and author of The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (Oxford University Press, 2016), joins us to investigate the ins and outs of this bloodiest of North American slave revolts. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/133
Marjory Allen Perez, former Wayne County Historian, has announced the completion of her new book, Final Stop, Freedom!: The Underground Railroad Experience in Wayne County, New York (Herons Bend Productions, 2017).
The book includes biographical sketches of men and women who boarded the Underground Railroad between 1800 and 1865. Thomas and Agnes Watkins were brought as slaves from Virginia to Sodus Bay by Captain William Helm about 1800. In 1810 they fled from slavery, taking with them their infant son, Edward. Loyd and Susan Chase and their six children arrived in Macedon, New York about 1844, but within a few years felt compelled to continue their journey to freedom, moving to Canada. In 1863, William Scott, then known as William Bacome, took advantage of the disruptions of the Civil War in Tennessee to begin his odyssey to freedom, traveling first to Massachusetts and eventually to Huron, New York, where he set down deep routes and raised his family. Continue reading
On April 22, 2017 from 11 am to 4 pm, Crailo State Historic Site will host a Pinkster celebration featuring the performance and education group, The Children of Dahomey.
Once a Dutch holiday commemorating Pentecost, Pinkster became a distinctly African American holiday in the Hudson River Valley during the colonial era. During the 17th and 18th centuries, enslaved and free African Americans transformed Pinkster from a Dutch religious observance into a spring festival and a celebration of African cultural traditions. All along the Hudson River and on Albany’s “Pinkster Hill” (the current site of the NYS Capitol), enslaved African Americans reunited with family and friends and celebrated Pinkster with storytelling, food, music, and dance. Other Pinkster traditions, like the selection of the Pinkster King, created opportunities for enslaved African Americans to honor respected members of the community and to subtly mock their white enslavers. Continue reading