Tag Archives: Slavery

A Black American’s View on the Fourth of July


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160 years ago the former slave Frederick Douglass was asked to give a speech on the Fourth of July. Douglass refused to speak on July 4, but did deliver a powerfulspeech the day after Independence Day. He asked the audience “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” “The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you. Not me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. The Fourth of July is yours, not mine.”

On July 1, 2012 at 2 p.m. at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) to which Frederick Douglass was the first inductee, David A. Anderson Ph.D. Visiting Scholar at Nazareth College of Rochester will present an oration of Douglass’ speech asking what Independence Day meant to the American slave. 

A founding member of Akwaaba: the Heritage Associates, Anderson is an interpreter of living history through reenactments that evoke Frederick Douglass, Austin Steward, unheralded escapees, et al. Often the theme addresses the essential role African American Union soldiers played in freeing a people and preserving the Union. He has presented such recreations at symposia in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and in other venues.

Anderson chairs Rochester-Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission, which in 2003, took the lead in staging, “Men of Color, to Arms!” a conference illuminating Frederick Douglass’ role in overturning policies barring African Americans from the Union Army. In 2007, with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center inCincinnati, the Commission co-sponsored the Frederick Douglass International Underground Railroad Conference. In June 2009, Anderson joined other honorees at the National Mall in Washington in “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture,” an exploration of the expressive power of the creative African American oral traditions in the shaping of American culture.

Douglass spoke at anti-slavery conventions in Peterboro and in the Free Church of Peterboro which Gerrit Smith had established. Douglass worked with Smith in organizing the 1850 Anti-Fugitive Slave Law Convention in Cazenovia, New York. Smith made large and regular donations of money to Douglass in order to keep solvent Douglass’ anti-slavery efforts through his newspapers The North Star and Frederick Douglass’ paper. Douglass dedicated the second edition of his autobiography to Gerrit Smith whom he considered a great man because of his practical efforts to implement universal human rights. Douglass’ relationship with Smith was also on a very personal level. He visited Peterboro often, bringing with him colleagues and other members of his family for extended visits as early as 1835. Following the two o’clock program, Norman K. Dann PhD, a Gerrit Smith biographer, will conduct a tour of Douglass’ steps at the Gerrit Smith Estate describing the relationship between the two men.

This program is supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities for the Abolition Agitation in New York Sparks War for Liberty and Justice for All2012 NAHOF project. Admission to the program and to the exhibits at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro is three dollars and free to students. 

The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum is included in the Madison County Cultural Heritage Passport with its companion heritage site the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark. Both sites are open Saturdays and Sundays form 1 – 5 from May 19 to September 23, by appointment,and for special events. For more information info@abolitionhof.org and 315-366-8101

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.

John Brown Day Planned for May 5th


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Frederick Douglass’ great-great-great grandson Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., will give the keynote address at the annual John Brown Day celebration to be held on Saturday, May 5, at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, NY. Morris will talk about the friendship and enduring legacy of Douglass and fellow abolitionist John Brown.

The two men first met in Massachusetts in 1848, a decade after Douglass successfully escaped from slavery on a Maryland plantation and eleven years before Brown’s history-changing raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. By the time they met, Douglass had become one of the most eloquent and sought-after champions of freedom and equal suffrage for women and men, regardless of race.

Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, Morris will also discuss the Foundation’s work today to create a modern Abolitionist Movement in schools all over the country through the vehicle of Service-Learning.

There are an estimated 27 million men, women and children held in some form of slavery in the world today, generating billions of dollars along the supply chain of labor and products that make much of our daily lives possible.

Joining Morris will be Renan Salgado, a Human Trafficking Specialist based in Rochester, who will shed light in his remarks about slavery and trafficking in New York State today. According to the U.S. State Department, there are approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year. Along with California, Texas, and Florida, New York ranks among the states with the greatest incidence of documented slavery in the country.

Young, award-winning orators from the Frederick Douglass Student Club in Rochester will recite from Douglass’ speeches and excerpts from Brown’s letters. The folk quartet The Wannabees and the hip-hop recording artist S.A.I. will also perform.

John Brown Day revives the tradition dating back to the 1930s of making a pilgrimage to remember and honor Brown by laying a wreath at his grave. Over the last 13 years, the grassroots freedom education project John Brown Lives! has worked to keep that tradition alive and relevant.

John Brown Day 2012 is free and open to the public and it is held outdoors. A brief reception will follow in the lower barn at the site. Donations will be appreciated.

For more information, contact Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives! at 518-962-4758 or mswan@capital.net.

Visit the John Brown Lives! Friends of Freedom on Facebook.

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.

Sean Kelleher: Toasts as Cultural History


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Today’s traditions is to raise a glass and offer a toast to celebrate a wedding and a new year. In the 17th through the early 19th century, public toasting was very common and many of these toasts are documented in old newspapers. “Toasts were efforts to draw all present into an agreeable fellowship, whether they wanted to be drawn in or not. At the best. the practice knitted together people from different classes into a comity of good cheer,” explains historian Peter Thompson in And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.

It was typical during the American War of Independence that 13 toasts were drunk, one for each State, however, the toast below number 18. These toasts were offered on July 5, 1775 by General David Wooster and the officers of the Connecticut forces, who were dining at Mr. Samuel Frances in the Fields with the members of the New York Military Club in New York City. The accounts in Rivington’s New York Gazetteer describe “the day was spent in the utmost harmony every thing conspiring to please being all of one mind and one heart. The following loyal toasts were drank:

1. The king better counselors to him

2. The hon Continental Congress

3. General Washington and the army under his command

4. The several provincial congresses and committees in the confederated colonies

5. A speedy union on constitutional principles between Great Britain and America

6. Conquest and laurels to all those heroes who draw their swords in support of freedom

7. Confusion and disappointment to the friends of despotism and the enemies of America

8. May the disgrace of the rebels against the constitution be as conspicuous as that of the rebels against the house of Hanover

9. All those worthies in both Houses of Parliament who stood forth advocates of America

10. The Lord Mayor and worthy citizens of London

11. The glorious memory of King William

12. The immortal memory of Hampden Sydney and every patriot who fell in defence of liberty

13. May the enemies of America be turned into saltpetre and go off in hot blasts

14. May Great Britain see her error before America ceases in affection

15. May America ever be the dread and scourge of tyrants

16. The daughters of America in the arms of their brave defenders only

17. Death and jack boots before dishonor and wooden shoes

18. The glorious nineteenth of April when the brave Americans convinced General Gage and the friends of tyranny that they dare fight and conquer also

There are a couple of notable items from these toasts. The toasts were drunk the same day as the Continental Congress passed the Olive Branch Petition. The Olive Branch Petition was the last effort of the Continental Congress to avoid war with Great Britain in 1775. Some delegates to the Continental Congress wanted to break with England at this time, but they yielded to the majority who weren’t as radical. Those who were more moderate wanted to explain their position clearly to King George, in hopes that he had been misinformed about their intentions. They made it clear that they were loyal subjects to Great Britain and they wanted to remain so as long as their grievances were addressed. The King refused to even receive their petition. This set the stage for the American Declaration of Independence a year later.

General David Wooster was an American general who served in the French and Indian War and in the American War of Independence (AWI). He died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut on May 2, 1777. Cities, schools, and public places were named after him. He has been called “a largely forgotten hero of the Revolution.” A masonic history of Wooster is:

“DAVID WOOSTER was born near Stratford, Conn., March 2nd, 1710-11. After graduation from Yale in 1738, he served as a Lieutenant of the Connecticut Colony sloop “Defense” cruising between Cape Hatteras, Virginia, and Cape Cod, Mass., protecting fishermen and traders against the depredations of Spanish raiders and privateers in “the War of Jenkin’s Ear”. In May 1742 he was promoted to the command of the “Defense”. In the Louisbourg expedition he served as a Captain, commanding a company in the Connecticut contingent, becoming senior Captain at the end of the siege. He was one of an escort of twenty who accompanied the prisoners to France, being assigned to the flag-ship “Launceston” which transported the officers and their families, leaving on July 4th, 1745, in a convoy of eleven ships. This ship proceeded to London where he and his brother officers were feted and honoured in recognition of the great achievement of the colonial troops in the capture of Louisbourg. He was also appointed in December 1745 a Captain in Pepperrell’s new Regiment. It would seem probable that while in London (September to November 9, 1745) he was made a Freemason. On his return to Connecticut he was employed on recruiting service in that State and in December 1745 married a daughter of the President of Yale, Mary Clap, then 15 years of age, his own age being thirty-five. Wooster was on duty with his Regiment at Louisbourg from April 1747 to February 1749 and on the cession of that city back to France in 1748, he returned to New Haven in July 1749. On August 12th, 1750, the Grand Lodge at Boston “At Ye Petition of sundry Brothers (including Whiting) at Newhaven in Connecticut” the charter for the present-day Hiram Lodge, No. 1 was granted, naming David Wooster as first Master. Among his associates were Nathan Whiting and Joseph Goldthwaite, brother officers at the first siege of Louisbourg, at Louisbourg during the period 1747 to 1749. In 1755 he was made a Colonel in the Provincial Army and served in the Campaign of 1755-63 against the French including Quebec in 1759. He took a leading part in the Revolutionary War, and succeeded to the command of Montgomery’s Army at Quebec, after the death of the latter. He was later appointed Major-General in the Connecticut militia and fell mortally wounded while leading an attack at Ridgefield, near Norwalk. A memorial bearing the Square and Compasses stands over the spot where he fell April 27, 1777, while harrying the rear guard of the British troops that had raided Danbury and New Haven. He died May 2, 1777.”

An irony is that General Wooster was an acquaintance of the African-American poet Phillis Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley shared with his widow, Mary (Clap) Wooster, on 15 July 1778, an elegy poem on the death of General David Wooster. This poem is known for its lines concerning slavery in the hero’s prayer at the end: “But how, presumptuous shall we hope to find/ Divine acceptance with th’ Almighty mind — / While yet (O deed ungenerous!) they disgrace/ And hold in bondage Afric’s blameless race…” A contrast to the 18 toasts which do not mention slavery, but do reference “Conquest and laurels to all those heroes who draw their swords in support of freedom”.

Toasts are truly a wonderful area of research. They provide an opportunity to see what our forefathers valued. Toasts are how a community tried to draw in a community in fellowship and celebration.

Illustration: A Birmingham toast, as given on the 14th of July by the–revolution society from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley.

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.

Black Patriots: Continental African-American Vets


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Several thousand African-Americans served in the Patriot ranks during the Revolution. Both freemen and slaves fought alongside white soldiers, in integrated regiments, a practice which would not occur again until the Korean War. In celebration of Black History Month, learn about the vital role that African-Americans played in securing our independence Sunday February 12 from 2:00 to 2:30 PM at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site.

Though some enslaved soldiers were granted freedom for serving in the Patriot army, the successful struggle for independence doomed generations of African-Americans to continued bondage. Great Britain abolished slavery 31 years before the United States, so it was quite possible that the American Civil War might have been averted had the thirteen colonies not rebelled.

Why would black soldiers agree to fight for a country that held many of their people in chains and excluded the remainder from all but the most menial tasks? The answer was quite simple actually; the deep-seated desire to be accepted and respected. Gifted African-American leader and orator Frederick Douglass, proudly proclaimed during the Civil War: “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” African-Americans, of the Revolutionary War Patriot forces, were willing to fight and die to be accepted by white society as did their descendants “four score and seven years” later.

New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is located on Route 300, 374 Temple Hill Road, in New Windsor, NY, just three miles south of the intersection of I-87 and I-84. For more information please call (845) 561-1765 ext. 22.

Illustration: An African American Private, 2nd New Jersey Regiment.

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.

Recent Publications: New York Archives Magazine (Winter 2012)


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New York Archives is a beautifully designed quarterly magazine featuring articles for a popular audience by distinguished authors, scholars, and journalists. New York Archives is published by the Archives Partnership Trust primarily as a benefit of membership in the Trust. Visit www.nysarchivestrust.org to become a member.

The Winter 2012 issue of New York Archives features these articles: Continue reading

CCNY Early-Career Historians Win NEH Awards


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Dr. Gregory Downs, associate professor of history, and Dr. Emily Greble, assistant professor of history at The City College of New York are recipients of faculty research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grants, announced by NEH December 9, will support book projects currently in development.

“The NEH fellowships are extremely competitive; only eight percent of applicants are successful. To have two early-career faculty members in the same department come up winners is remarkable,” said Dr. Geraldine Murphy, acting dean of humanities and the arts at CCNY, in congratulating them.

“Our department has undergone significant growth because The City College administration made a commitment to bring in energetic scholars and teachers,” said Professor Downs, who serves as department chair. “We’ve hired eight new faculty members in nine years and we are seeing that faith pay off.”

“We seem to have become a hotbed of new and innovative scholarship,” added Professor Greble. “We see the product of this intellectually stimulating environment in so many areas of departmental life, from the number of students we have been placing in top doctoral programs to the rigorous publication record of our faculty, to the winning of top academic fellowships like the NEH and the Rome Prize.”

Four Class of 2011 history majors are now in PhD programs at Yale University, Princeton University and University of Michigan. Associate Professor of History Barbara Ann Naddeo received the Rome Prize in 2010 for her scholarship on the city of Naples, Italy. Assistant Professor of History Adrienne Petty is conducting an oral history project on African-American farm owners in the South in collaboration with Professor Mark Schultz of Lewis University supported by an NEH award.

Professor Downs’ project, “The Ends of War: American Reconstruction and the Problems of Occupation,” examines the transition from Civil War to Reconstruction and asks why former slaves, loyal whites, Freedmen’s Bureau agents and northern émigrés became disillusioned. The problems emanated not as much from free-labor ideology or racism as from a sharp reduction of military force in the region, which resulted in a power vacuum, he contends.

At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. government, fearing budget deficits, demobilized at such a rapid pace that within 18 months only 12,000 troops remained in the former Confederacy. As the military withdrew from different areas, hundreds of small wars broke out between former Confederates and organized freedmen.

Professor Downs attributes the situation to a naïve belief among elected officials in Washington that they could expand voting rights in the South at the same time that the federal government was reducing its presence there to cut the budget. “What was needed was not an expansion of democracy, but an expansion of enforcement,” he says. “Both sides figured out that violence was the logical conclusion. By the time they had mobilized it was too late for the government to act.”

The project grows out of an earlier monograph, “Declarations of Independence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1860 – 1908,” published in 2011 by University of North Carolina Press. However, Professor Downs says his thinking has been influenced by recent U.S. experience with occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Seeing how difficult it is to change social power, create new lines of authority and disrupt societies makes me wonder why we were so confident we could do it in the post-war South. Rights need enforceability to make them real,” he adds, pointing to the intervention by federal troops in the Little Rock Central High School in 1957 as an example.

Professor Greble’s project, “Islam and the European Nation-State: Balkan Muslims between Mosque and State, 1908 – 1949,” examines how South Slavic Muslims adapted to six significant political shifts over a 41-year period. In each instance new governments sought – in their own way – to limit, secularize and shape Muslim institutions as the region went from Ottoman to Habsburg control, to liberal nation-states, to authoritarian monarchs, to fascist regimes and to socialist regimes.

Her initial research suggests Muslims proactively adapted the norms and customs of their faith to define Islam in their own terms. Additionally, they sought to become part of the international community of Muslims to confront being dispossessed of property, Sharia law, institutional autonomy and the right to define Islam.

To assert their influence, some Muslims formed political parties and cultural societies that promoted Muslim cultural agendas. More conservative members of the community sought to strengthen and protect local Muslim networks through codification of Sharia law and Islamic society. Others engaged in clandestine activities such as underground madrassas.

Much of Professor Greble’s research will examine the changing role of Sharia courts. Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, these were codified and given jurisdiction over Muslim socio-religious affairs, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Muslim parts of the Balkans, particularly Yugoslavia, retained this legal autonomy between the two world wars and during Nazi and fascist occupation, but lost it after communists came to power and shut down the Sharia courts in 1946.

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 Civil War Novel Features 14th New York


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In time for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War Jack McGuire offers Joining Up (Self-Published, 2011), a new historical novel memorializing Brooklyn’s famous red-legged devils of the Fourteenth Regiment through fiction. The book offers readers insight into the abolitionist regiment that became a favorite of Abraham Lincoln.

McGuire evokes the powerful words of William Burleigh; “The gallant Fourteenth forget them not: our gallant boys who, for the nation’s life, stood amid the battle grime and noise and were baptized in its flames and blood,” setting the tone for the novel, which depicts the gallantry, bravery, and commitment to justice of the Fourteenth.

Joining Up chronicles the tale of two young boys, Will and Bobby, who run away from Saint John’s home in Brooklyn, inspired by the image of Will’s brother, Andrew, in uniform. The boys are inspired by the dauntless spirit of the Fourteenth, driven by the desire to become a part of their noble cause. McGuire addresses the mystique of their “red legs” as Will recounts a story that he had been told to his friend, Bobby; “The way I heard the story is they fought one battle in Union blue and got whipped good. They been wearing red ever since.”

The two teenage boys, backs still raw from a whipping, make their escape from the Brooklyn Orphanage to the Red Legged Devils of the Fourteenth Regiment.. En-route to the Civil War battlefields Bobby and Will become mule train drivers with a scalawag muleskinner who runs supply wagons for a Massachusetts Regiment. The search for the Fourteenth New York leads the runaways to the farmlands of Pennsylvania where Robert E Lee is about to launch his armies of Northern Virginia against George Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac. It’s the eve of the biggest battle of the Civil War when the runaways finally don Union Blue.

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.