Federal and state partners have recently released a new online map and mobile app to help people explore New York State’s connection to abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. The map includes sites, programs and tours that have been approved by the National Park Service Network to Freedom Program or the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail.
New York State was a gateway for many African Americans seeking to escape slavery in the 1800s. Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard. The interactive map was created to tie New York State’s individual sites together, but also connect them to the longer string of sites that comprise the entire Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Continue reading
The unveiling of the Sojourner Truth statue in the town of Esopus, NY where the abolitionist preacher was held a slave as a child, was a remarkable experience. I’ve lived in the Hudson Valley County of Ulster all my life and have never witnessed the “owning” of the shameful past of slavery before. Truth’s statue in the Esopus hamlet of Port Ewen represents the only statue in the world of a child slave at work, according to Ulster County Historian Anne Gordon. Continue reading
On November 8 and 9, 2013, Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY will host “Harriet Tubman: No Longer Underground,” a two-day symposium marking the centennial of the death of Harriet Tubman in 1913.
Co-Sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Boosters Club, the Seward House Museum, and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the symposium will celebrate the life and work of the heroic African American woman who escaped slavery, conducted other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, served the Union Army during the Civil War, and worked as a humanitarian and advocate for women’s rights throughout the 50 years she lived in Auburn. Continue reading
A newly minted bronze statue of celebrated abolitionist and human rights advocate Sojourner Truth as a child slave at work will be installed in Port Ewen, in the Town of Esopus, Ulster County on September 21. The statue and an interpretive sign will be installed on a plaza on the corner of 9W and Salem Street.
Sojourner Truth was born in into slavery in Swartekill, just north of present-day Rifton in Esopus. Her parents had been enslaved in Africa and purchased by Col. Johannes Hardenbergh. She was born as Isabella Baumfree in about 1797, and lived the first 30 years of her life in Ulster County, taking the name Sojourner Truth in the 1840s. She is best known today for her speech “Ain’t I A Woman?’, which she delivered off-hand at the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. She died in Michigan in 1883. Continue reading
This year’s August 17th Champlain Day festivities will honor two local “law breakers” — Noadiah and Caroline Mattocks Moore. They were key participants in the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad, an illegal network of safe places which sheltered hundreds of fugitives from slavery as they made their way from the Southern slave states to freedom in Canada before the Civil War. Continue reading
Minerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.
Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading
Slavery nearly destroyed this country. We now mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which many consider to have been a battle over slavery. But in the big picture, the battle over slavery has been ongoing since this nation was formed. In our infancy, it was outlawed in some states but not in others. With great gall and to our utter embarrassment, we called ourselves the Land of the Free. In fact, when Francis Scott Key wrote those words in 1814, about half of the states allowed slavery.
There were still plenty of lynchings 150 years later when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. That time is now 50 years past, yet there’s still plenty of bigotry and racism to go around. Judging by where we stand today, it’s shameful to suggest that we’ve come far. More than two centuries, and this is the best we can do? Continue reading
The 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.
Northup was born a free man in Minerva, Essex County, NY, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has added two important artifacts to its current exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War.
The artifacts include the notes taken by two physicians who attended President Lincoln on his death bed and the only existing oil painting of Dred Scott, the African American slave whose 1858 Supreme Court trial pushed the nation to the brink of Civil War.
New York author L. Lloyd Stewart has recently published an extensively researched and documented book on African American history in New York State titled, The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vrankens and Other Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.
The author will be at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) during May’s Troy Night Out, on May 31, 2013. Stewart will give a presentation at 6:30 pm and will be available to sign copies of his book afterward. Continue reading
The Abolitionist History season is starting early this year.
First, the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausabale Chasm opens Saturday, May 4, nearly a month earlier than usual, and sponsors its first tour of Underground Railroad sites in local towns. With the weather as warm as it is, and demand growing in each of the museum’s first two years, the early opening made sense.
Second, just one week later, John Brown Lives! celebrates John Brown Day on May 11 with a special appearance by activist and one-time Presidental candidate Dick Gregory. He’ll be the keynote speaker at 2 p.m. at the John Brown State Historic Site, followed by Kate C. Larson, biographer of the legendary underground conductor Harriet Tubman. Continue reading
Long before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.
The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading
Here’s a quick look at some of the latest New York History resources to hit the web:
The Museum of the City of New York and the South Street Seaport Museum have launched a joint “catablog” which provides online access to finding aids for their archival collections. The archivists at both museums will continue to make more finding aids accessible via the Catablog as the collections are processed. Continue reading
Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) in Peterboro will announce plans for the 2013 Peterboro Heritage events at the annual Gerrit Smith birthday party on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.
The doors will open at 1:00 pm for the Stewart organizational meeting, program announcements, and overview of site hosting schedule needs and responsibilities – in-depth training to be held before we open for 2013 Heritage Season. At 2:00 p.m. Norman K. Dann PhD, professor emeritus Morrisville State College and Smith biographer will present on Gerrit Smith and Smithfield in 1863. Dann’s program will be followed by birthday refreshments. The program is open for the public with a three dollar admission for adults, and free for students and 2012 GSENHL Stewards. Continue reading
Spying was a major component of the strategy and the tactics of the American Revolution. However it’s only recently that historians have focused on the intrigues, subterfuges and skullduggery that were used by all sides. Except for the spying of British Major John Andre, his collaboration with Benedict Arnold, and of the failed spying of Nathan Hale, undercover intelligence gathering operations during the Revolution is a mostly forgotten aspect of that conflict.
Nonetheless, spying was quite common in that era and George Washington was its chief proponent. Washington made full use of the 1700s tools of the spy trade including invisible ink, hiding messages in feather quills, and small silver balls for hiding messages that could be swallowed in the event of capture. He also encouraged forging documents and making sure they fell into British hands. Continue reading
Manhattanites are agitating on behalf of the home of one of the city’s leading 19th Century agitators–Abigail Hopper Gibbons. She and her husband James S. Gibbons ran a strongly documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan, at what is now 339 West 29th St., near 8th Avenue.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Bureau of Standards and Appeals, over a developer’s decision to add fifth floor to the four-story building, in violation of historic preservation rules.
February is Black History Month and New York State offers a special window into African American history and American culture as it was a center for 19th century anti-slavery organizations, and home to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and many other Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leaders. In the 20th century the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) has its roots in the Niagara Movement, whose first meeting in 1905 took place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls because members were turned away from hotels on the U.S. side. Continue reading
“On August 16, 1781, Murphy Stiel, a sergeant in the Black Pioneers, a British paramilitary group based in New York City, had a remarkable dream. Stiel was sleeping in the Pioneers’ barracks on Water Street when he heard “a Voice like a Man’s but saw no body.”
The voice commanded Stiel to deliver a message to Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief of the British forces, that he should order General George Washington to surrender “himself and his Troops to the Kings Army.” Failure to do so would mean God’s wrath would fall upon the Americans. Stiel warned that all the “Blacks in America would rise up against Washington’s forces….For…the Lord would be on their side.” Continue reading
The 2013 Underground Railroad Public History Conference in the Capital District this year is marking three major milestones: the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, the death of Harriet Tubman 100 years ago, and the civil rights March on Washington 50 years ago.
The annual conference is the major Underground Railroad gathering each year in New York State. It will hold sessions in Albany and Troy, starting Friday, April 12, and finishing on Sunday, April 14. Continue reading
Almost lost in the depressing “Fiscal Cliff” spectacle was the anniversary marking one of the major positive milestones of our history — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
On January 1, 1863, some 3 million people held as slaves in the Confederate states were declared to be “forever free.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Most of those 3 million people were still subjugated until the Union Army swept away the final Confederate opposition more than two years later. And slavery was not abolished in the entire United States until after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865. Continue reading