“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
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
Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club; immigrant-rights organization Migrant Justice; and Don and Vivian Papson, founders of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, will receive Spirit of John Brown Freedom Awards at the John Brown Day celebration on Saturday, May 6, at 2 pm.
The annual event, which is organized by North Country-based human rights and freedom education project John Brown Lives!, will be held at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. The public is welcome. Continue reading
Peterboro NY will launch its 2017 Crusade for Social Reform at 1 pm on Saturday, March 11, with the annual celebration of Gerrit Smith’s birthday, held at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road.
Born March 6, 1797, Gerrit Smith, who lived and worked his entire adult life in Peterboro, was known for his philanthropy and activism for equality. Norman K. Dann PhD, researcher and author of Practical Dreamer: Gerrit Smith and the Crusade for Social Reform will introduce the 19th century Smith family activities, and then volunteers from the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) will explain the 2017 programs that will continue the quest for human rights in the 21st Century. Continue reading
The Schenectady County Historical Society will host a talk and book signing by local historian Neil Yetwin on February 11, 2017 at the Mabee Farm Historic Site.
Neil will be signing and selling copies of his book To My Son…: The Life and War Remembrances of Captain Mordecai Myers, 13th United States Infantry, 1812-1815.
In honor of President Lincoln’s January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, and Gerrit Smith’s connection to the copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the New York State Library, Retired Navy Commander Owen Corpin will provide a program and prepare the watch fire for the Watch Night commemoration at 4 pm Sunday, December 31, 2016.
The program will begin at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro, and will move to the watch fire site on the Peterboro Green. Owen Corpin, a descendant of 19th Century freedom seekers who came to Peterboro, will describe the long wait through the night of December 31, 1862. Corpin organized the first Peterboro Watch Night for the Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Continue reading
In the decade before the Civil War, Northern Democrats, although they represented antislavery and free-state constituencies, made possible the passage of such pro-slavery legislation as the Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Law of the same year, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the Lecompton Constitution of 1858.
In Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis (Cornell University Press, 2016) author Michael Todd Landis contends that a full understanding of the Civil War and its causes is impossible without a careful examination of Northern Democrats and their proslavery sentiments and activities. Continue reading
Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, will spend Friday night, September 9th, in a cellar kitchen at Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz as part of the historian’s ongoing mission to bring awareness to former slave dwellings’ existence, history, and need for preservation.
Six SUNY New Paltz students and several members of the public will be invited to join McGill and his associate Terry James to share in this symbolic return to a time when even northern households enslaved Africans. Continue reading
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) will be commemorating Emancipation Days Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7 with both traditional and new programs.
The event opens at 10 am with free parking and free registration at the Estate, followed by programs similar to those conducted in the 1920s and 1930s by a generation celebrating the emancipation of the generation before them. In 1925, more than 600 black men and women from Central New York made a pilgrimage to Peterboro, home of Gerrit Smith, to pay homage to abolitionists who fought for their freedom. Emancipation Day celebrations grew in later years, drawing crowds of more than 1,000 people, who came from Syracuse, Utica, Ithaca, Binghamton, Oswego and Fulton for parades, picnics and concerts. Although the practice faded after World War II, local descendants of freedom seekers are holding the Peterboro Emancipation Day celebration for the 7th year since its revival in 2010. Continue reading