In a book dedicated to Wilfred Ferguson, the son of Charles Ferguson, teacher and historian Christopher Verga resurrects the story of two Roosevelt, New York brothers killed by a Freeport police officer in 1946. Verga opens The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst with an account of the long history of racism on Long Island and in the Freeport area including Ku Klux Klan activity. The background to the 1946 killings takes up the first third of the book. The book is well researched and referenced with extended quotes from official court documents and newspaper accounts. It is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
On February 5, 1946, two African American men, brothers, were shot and killed by a white probationary police officer in Freeport, New York. The officer claimed that the men were part of a group of four, all brothers, who were using “abusive and threatening language” and that one of the men he shot had stated that he had a .45 and was going to use. The officer’s first shot struck 27-year old Charles Ferguson, a World War II veteran, in the heart and killed him instantly. The second shot wounded Joseph Ferguson, aged 20, and then struck Alphonso Ferguson, aged 25, in the head. Charles and Joseph Ferguson were both wearing military uniforms when they were shot. Alphonso Ferguson was taken to Meadowbrook Hospital in East Hempstead where he died. The fourth brother, Richard Ferguson, also a veteran, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 100 days in jail, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. Military tribunals later cleared the brothers of any blame in the incident. Charles Ferguson was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery with full military honors.
At the time of the shootings, Freeport was a segregated town. There were no Black police officers there or teachers in the Freeport school system and Black children were all zoned to attend one elementary school regardless of where they lived.
After Nassau County District Attorney ruled that the shootings were justified, the New York Committee for Justice in Freeport, the American Jewish Congress, and Congressional Representative Vito Marcantonio of Manhattan demanded that Governor Thomas E. Dewey authorize a new investigation. In July, Dewey appointed Lawrence S. Greenbaum, as a special investigator to hold hearings and examine witnesses. Greenbaum, a lawyer, was a member of the NAACP. A petition to Governor Dewey condemned the Nassau County District Attorney for “not properly and without prejudice carry out his duties in the presentation to the February grand jury” and the Freeport Village Board for prejudicing the proceedings by exonerating the white officer before the grand jury had heard the case. The petition also asserted that the brothers were not drunk as the police claimed, and that the incident had been precipitated when the operator of a lunch counter had refused to serve the men because they were Black. Legendary folk singer and activist Woodie Guthrie wrote a song, “The Ferguson Brothers Shooting,” to support the campaign for justice for the Ferguson family.
The cop said that we had insulted the joint man.
He made us line up with our faces to the wall;
We laughed to ourselves as we stood there and listened
To the man of law and order putting in his riot call.
The cop turned around and walked back to young Charlie
Kicked him in the groin and then shot him to the ground;
This same bullet went through the brain of Alonzo
And the next bullet laid my brother Joseph down . . .
The town that we ride through is not Rankin, Mississippi,
Nor Bilbo’s Jim Crow town of Washington, D.C.
But it’s greater New York, our most fair-minded city
In all this big land here and streets of the brave.
At the hearing, held in Manhattan, the two surviving brothers testified that the police officer first kicked Charles and Joseph Ferguson and then drew his pistol and lined the four brothers against a wall. The police produced witnesses to support the accused officer, including an African American by-passer, and no cross-examination of witnesses was permitted. The officer repeated his accusation that Charles Ferguson claimed to have a weapon, and that he shot Alfonso Ferguson when Ferguson was charging at him. The officer and the other police witnesses admitted that they never saw a gun and no gun was found at the scene. A spokesperson for the New York Committee for Justice on Freeport charged that the investigation was a “white-wash” and an “unvarnished fraud’ because witnesses were not cross-examined. At the final inquiry session on July 23, most of the audience walked out in protest.
After the special investigator’s report was released on August 2 and exonerated the police officer and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, Governor Dewey closed the inquiry. The report claimed that the police officer acted because he believed his life was in danger and there was reason to believe he would have acted differently if “the four men before him had been white and not colored.”
The killing of the African American men in Freeport became an issue in the November 1946 gubernatorial election as Dewey, a Republican, campaigned for reelection. Democratic party candidate James M. Mead charged that the shooting was a lynching and accused Dewey of endorsing Southern-style racism. However, once Dewey was reelected, the Freeport case dropped out of the news.
A side story in the book is the role of the American left including the Communist Party in the push for the special investigation into the killings and for justice for the Ferguson family. While the NAACP also called for the inquiry, it avoided being too closely associated with the left groups, and being branded as communist or communist directed. State and federal law officials investigated communist influence in the campaign, perhaps more carefully than they investigated the actual incident. In Nassau County and in Freeport supporters of the police officer used left involvement in the campaign as a way to discredit the specific charges and deny underlying racism in the area.
Verga concludes the book by examining a similar story about an African American veteran attacked and gravely injured by police in South Carolina and other incidents of racism in the United States and on Long Island after World War II including the notorious racial covenant banning African Americans from purchasing or renting Levittown homes. Verga note that at least demographically, Freeport and Long Island have changed since the deaths of Charles and Alponso Ferguson at the hands of a police officer in 1946.
Rev. Calvin Cornelius Fairbank was born November 3, 1816 in Pike, Wyoming County, NY. He began his academic studies at a seminary in Lima, Livingston County, NY, and became a licensed preacher in 1840. In 1842 he was ordained an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he graduated Oberlin College in Ohio two years later. At Oberlin he met John Mifflin Brown (1817-1893), a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and an Underground Railroad activist.
Fairbank was a radical abolitionist who not only spoke out against slavery, but actively worked to free as many enslaved people as he could. “Forty-seven slaves I guided toward the North Star, in violation of the state codes of Kentucky and Virginia,” he wrote. “I piloted them through the forests, mostly by night, – girls fair and white, dressed as ladies; men and boys, as gentlemen or servants – men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes; on horseback, in buggies, in carriages, common wagons, in and under loads of hay, straw, old furniture, boxes and bags; crossed the Jordan of the slave, swimming, or wading chin deep, or in boats, or skiffs, on rafts, and often on a pine log. And I never allowed one to be recaptured. For aiding these slaves to escape from their bondage, I was twice imprisoned, – in all seventeen years and four months; and received… thirty-five thousand, one hundred and five stripes from a leather strap…”
Fairbank helped free an enslaved person for the first time in 1837. While piloting a lumber raft down the Ohio River he ferried a slave across the river into free territory. He often guided escaped slaves to Levi Coffin who helped arrange further transportation north for thousands of people.
Fairbank was arrested for helping to transport Lewis Hayden, his wife Harriet and Harriet’s son Joseph by carriage to freedom in Ohio. He was tried in 1845 and sentenced to 15 years, five years for each of the slaves he helped free. Serving his sentence in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort, he was pardoned in 1849 using money raised by Hayden from his new neighbors in Boston. Two years later he was arrested again for helping an enslaved man named Tamar escape Kentucky to Indiana. In November 1851, marshals from Kentucky, with the help of the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana and Indiana Governor Joseph A. Wright, abducted Fairbank and took him back to Kentucky. In 1852, he was again sentenced to 15 years. While imprisoned in the Frankfort Penitentiary he was the victim of harsh treatment, including being frequently whipped (he believed he had received some 35,000 lashes while imprisoned). From 1844 to 1870, Kentucky imprisoned at least 44 people for helping to free enslaved people. The last man was released in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War. Eight of those imprisoned died prisoners.
Late in the Civil War, in 1864, Fairbank was pardoned by Acting Kentucky Governor Richard T. Jacob. He later wrote a memoir, published in 1890, Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He “Fought the Good Fight” to Prepare “the Way.” He died in near-poverty in Angelica, Allegany County, NY. Rev. Calvin Cornelius Fairbank was inducted to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, New York in October 2022.
Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times (1890) (Excerpts)
“I took license to preach in 1840, and in 1842 was ordained an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and closed my course of study, graduating in 1844. One incident, more than anything else outside of my organization, controlled and intensified my sentiments on the slavery question. It was this: I went with my father and mother to Rushford to quarterly meeting when a boy, and we were assigned to the good, clean home of a pair of escaped slaves. One night after service I sat on the hearthstone before the fire, and listened to the woman’s story of sorrow. It covered the history of thirty years. She had been sold from home, separated from her husband and family, and all ties of affection broken. My heart wept, my anger was kindled, and antagonism to slavery was fixed upon me. “Father,” I said, on going to our room, “when I get bigger they shall not do that;” and the resolve waxed stronger with my growth.”
I grew to manhood with a positive, innate sense of impartial liberty and equality, of inalienable right, without regard to race, color, descent, sex or position. I never trained with the strong party simply because it was strong. From the time I heard that woman’s story I felt the most intense hatred and contempt for slavery, as the vilest evil that ever existed; and yet I supposed the institution provided for and protected by the United States Constitution, and legally established by every slave state; and when, previous to investigation, I repeatedly aided the slaves to escape in violation of law, I did it earnestly, honestly, in all good conscience toward God and man.
Coming within the influence of active anti-slavery men at Oberlin, Ohio, I was led to examine the subject in the light of law and justice, and soon found the United States Constitution anti-slavery, and the institution existing in violation of law. My conclusion in regard to the anti-slavery character of the Constitution of the United States was based on common law, on its interpretation by the whole civilized world, and the recognition of self-evident truth as the basis of that interpretation, viz.: “Where rights are infringed, where fundamental principles are overthrown, where the general system of the law is departed from, the legislative intention must be expressed with irresistible clearness, in order to induce a court of justice to suppose a design to effect such object.”
This conclusion enabled me to act without misgiving, as to my obligation to the General Government. I was no longer under obligation to respect the evil institution as protected by the Government, but was free to condemn slavery and the slave code, — free to follow the promptings of duty.
Finding, then, the diabolical institution unprovided for — finding it positively prohibited—finding it to be a conceded fact by our best statesmen, North and South, that not a state in the Union had slavery established by law, I concluded, upon the highest authority in the universe, that slavery was chronic rebellion, and that I was not only justified, but bound by the “higher law,” to oppose it in defense of an oppressed people. From that time I never allowed an opportunity to aid the fugitives to pass unimproved; but when men and women came to me, pleading the “Fatherhood of God,” and the brotherhood of man, I did all in my power to set them free, subjecting myself to imprisonment and the deepest suffering.
Forty-seven slaves I guided toward the North Star, in violation of the state codes of Virginia and Kentucky. I piloted them through the forests, mostly by night, — girls, fair and white, dressed as ladies; men and boys, as gentlemen, or servants, — men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes; boys dressed as girls, and girls as boys; on foot or on horseback, in buggies, carriages, common wagons, in and under loads of hay, straw, old furniture, boxes, and bags; crossed the Jordan of the slave, swimming, or wading chin deep, or in boats, or skiffs, on rafts, and often on a pine log. And I never suffered one to be recaptured. None of them, so far as I have learned, have ever come to poverty, or to disgrace. I have visited a score of those families, finding them all industrious, frugal, prosperous, respectable citizens.
For aiding those slaves to escape from their bondage, I was twice imprisoned — in all seventeen years and four months; and received, during the eight years from March first, 1854, to March first, 1862, thirty-five thousand, one hundred and five stripes from a leather strap fifteen to eighteen inches long, one and a half inches wide, and from one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch thick. It was of half-tanned leather, and frequently well soaked, so that it might burn the flesh more intensely. These floggings were not with a rawhide or cowhide, but with a strap of leather attached to a handle of convenient size and length to inflict as much pain as possible, with as little real damage as possible to the working capacity.
In what decade did Calvin Fairbank become a member of the clergy?
What “incident’ convinced Rev. Fairbank to organize his life to oppose slavery?
Rev. Fairbank believed in a “positive, innate sense of impartial liberty and equality, of inalienable right, without regard to race, color, descent, sex or position.” In which foundational American document(s) do those ideas appear?
What was his initial view of the United States Constitution?
How did his view of the Constitution and the government change?
How many freedom seekers did Fairbank assist on the Underground Railroad?
What happened to Fairbank as a result of his activity on the Underground Railroad?
Rev. Calvin Fairbank was recently inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, New York. In your opinion, did he merit this honor? Explain.
The Forgotten Lessons: The Teaching of Northern Slavery
In the winter of 2021, a dark discovery took Rider University by storm and sparked a revelation amongst many of the students in attendance. After over a century of being hidden in the darkness, the secret that Rider University was once a slave-owning plantation was revealed to the world. A place of advanced education and diversity was once an institution of oppression. The university has since changed the name of the building from the name of the slave owner, Van Cleve, to the Alumni House. It is important that history not be forgotten, but instead brought to the forefront. The university will not erase the history but rather use it as a way to teach about the complicated history of slavery in the state of New Jersey. To many of the students attending the university, this came as a surprise. The students who were history majors were astonished by the fact that slavery occurred in the state of New Jersey, let alone on Rider University’s property. The reason for this lack of information stems from the collective lack of education on the subject.
With a basic understanding of American history, one would be led to believe that slavery was a southern issue and continues to be a contentious history when taught in those states. The reality was that slavery was a nationwide institution. Though schools in the south are vocal about the unwillingness to teach the subject, schools in the north are silent. There is continuous hypocrisy in deflecting all discussions of the matter to the south while ignoring what happened in their own backyards. Walking through any school teaching U.S. history, one may hear a line like “The north were free states and the south were slave states.” Similarly, worded statements can be found within schools in New Jersey all across the state. It implies that Northern states had no slaves at the time of the civil war and were actively fighting the good fight. When the 14th Amendment comes into discussion, one may have the impression that it directly pertained to the freeing of enslaved people in the south, rather than the north as they were already free. This simplification of the issue is far from the truth. To this day, many students will never learn that slavery took place in the north at all, let alone that New Jersey was the last state to abolish the practice. The nation now celebrates Juneteenth to “commemorate an effective end of slavery in the United States”. The stark reality is that slavery persisted after Juneteenth in the state of New Jersey legally for almost a full year, and illegally for another year. That dark history is often forgotten within classrooms throughout the state of New Jersey and the nation.
The lack of national attention to this critical issue does beg the question of how it happened. Many historians argue that the lack of discussion on the institution of northern slavery was due to the racist beliefs of historians in the 19th and 20th centuries. The voices of those early historians often get blamed for creating the view that slavery was only relevant when discussing the civil war as it was undeniably a major cause. As time progressed, one would assume the material on northern slavery would become more prevalent, however, that is not the case. As the discussion both in the classroom and by historians on the institution of slavery has expanded, northern slavery still remains for the most part absent. The question remains: did this critical part of the establishment of the nation go untaught? The only way to answer that question is by examining the teaching of slavery in New Jersey and the Tri-state area. This will open that gateway to a deeper understanding of how this history could be erased from the collective memory.
Before proceeding, it is imperative to understand what the discussion of the education on northern slavery has been. Though the discussion on northern slavery began in the late 1940s alongside the civil rights movement, the conversation about its absence in the classroom does not begin until 1991 due to a shocking discovery in Manhattan, New York. As the federal government was constructing a 275 million dollar project, they stumbled upon “the largest and oldest collection of colonial-era remains of free and enslaved Africans in the United States, according to the National Park Service”. This discovery of the cemetery caused massive protests to fight the city to halt the construction and the removal of the bodies from the site. Following this event, the New York City public schools began to look for a way to incorporate the material into the class and teach this reality that was just revealed to them. This started a growing push from schools across the nation to try to incorporate this reality.
The conversation on northern slavery would continue over a decade later when Professor Alan Singer of Hofstra University would guest teach in New York City public schools. When teaching less than a mile away from the enslaved African cemetery, most of the students were completely oblivious to the reality that not only were slaves in New York but how the reality of slavery was visible in their own community. Though many decisions on how to tackle such an issue were made to teach this material, over a decade later the students still had no idea about northern slavery. The discussions on the material did not translate into the classroom to a sufficient extent. The debate on how to successfully teach northern slavery in the classroom ensued and ultimately lead to the discussion on how to teach this history appropriately.
The content of northern slavery required a restructuring in order to successfully teach the material. Previously, slavery was only taught at the establishment of European colonies in the New World and before the American Civil War. What this divide does is creates the material into another unit, a separate event rather than a continuous struggle. The 2016 book Understanding and Teaching American Slavery by Bethany Jay and Cynthia Lyerly attempt to illustrate the best organization for discussing the topic and the history of the institution of slavery in classrooms. In their analysis of the history of teaching the institution of slavery, they regard the idea of teaching slavery exclusively at those points during early American Colonization and the Civil War to “severely hinder its importance.” What is the best way to teach the institution of slavery is discussing the enslaved perspective threw out the development of the nation. The benefits of this method allow the longevity of the issue and the hardships faced by those affected to be well articulated amongst the students. This is due to its constant presence and the reminder that liberty and freedom were not for all. This revelation in adding the enslaved perspective to early American history would spark further development in tools and resources to bring northern slavery into the classroom.
An initiative would be enacted to bring northern slavery and the massive scope of the institution of slavery to the forefront. This would come in the form of The New York Times 1619 Project. This resource marks an incredible stride in the conversation on teaching northern slavery. The project’s purpose is “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative”. This comes out of a series of historians and teachers discussing how the realities and the true institution of slavery were untaught to them in the classroom. The project’s aim is to bring these lost lessons of slavery such as its true cruelty and its widespread adoption throughout the nation, not just exclusively in the south. It is built off of the ideals proposed in Understanding and Teaching American Slavery and other books with the same idea tofollow this notion that slavery is an integral part of the nation as a whole, rather than at specific points in U.S. history. The combination of all these ideas paints a picture of the flaws of the teaching of slavery threw out the nation. The current discussion’s main focus is looking at what is absent in the current classroom. The smaller conversation that pertains to the material taught in the past primarily revolves around racism and the Klan. The discovery of a 1904 textbook that details the brutality of northern slavery pushes back on this notion. It begs the question of whether the subject was truly untaught or if another force was responsible for its absence. Looking at the material present in the classroom in the past may prove an insight into northern slavery’s appeared absence.
An analysis of the classroom material available to students is key to understanding the absence of northern slavery. To find these answers, understanding what material was being taught in classrooms from the 1860s and beyond. A method to understand the content of the classroom is by looking at textbooks. Many school notes and lesson plans have been lost to time, but what remains are textbooks. The work of Dr. Pearcy shows the indicator tool that can be used to understand their effect on the content being taught in schools. He states clearly in his article, “Textbooks are, ultimately, tools, for student use. Their utility can only be measured by the degree to which they offer teachers the opportunity to build student-centered inquiry”. From this notion, we can conclude that textbooks are just an object and a tool for students to use. Their content is meaningless unless given a purpose by the teacher. Everything learned in the classroom is under the teachers’ control and they possess the option to use or discard the textbook. However, textbooks do tell us something else depending on where they are. His research looks at ten different U.S. history textbooks of different authors that are widely adopted and compares their tellings of the Battle of Fort Sumter. After analyzing each of the tellings, an interesting trend occurs. This trend is in the bias of the author and how they pick and choose what details to keep and leave out of the telling of the event. This bias could affect the leanings of anyone reading and coerce their perspective of the events that unfolded. These different depictions of the conflict in different areas can have effects on the material discussed in class or reflect it. Companies such as Pearson publish multiple textbooks by different authors to capitalize mainly on the market, however, what market are they capitalizing on?
Looking at the rationale behind the variation of textbooks based on location can assist in understanding why certain content is missing. The findings by Goldstein in his article Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories sheds light on the issue of why these publishing companies hire multiple historians and interpretations of the same material. This article focuses on eight different textbooks found within the states of Texas and California. The issues arise when looking at the same textbook in multiple states. The textbooks are by the exact same author but have different versions for each state. The variations were created by request of school districts or even the book’s own editor. These individuals remove or request additions of material to allow the book to be adopted in a particular area. The best evidence to illustrate this divide between locations is that of the Harlem Renaissance. Examples of this are found in Pearson’s United States History: The Twentieth Century 19th edition. On the subject of the Harlem Renaissance, the Californian edition features a section on the debate within the African American community over its overall impact on them and the nation as a whole. The Texas version only includes the line “some critics ‘dismissed the quality of literature produced’”. What these two distinct changes, along with many more, indicate is the presence of the political atmosphere of the area and the belief of the people the textbook is serving to reinforce. The textbook adopted by a particular state or district reflects the information a school is teaching in the classroom.
With an understanding of the behind-the-scenes crafting of textbooks, there can be the formulation of the content of northern slavery in school. Combining the findings of Dr. Pearcy and Goldstein, textbooks can provide insight into the classroom. The selection of the historian and the version adopted by the school reflect what the administration desired its teachers to instruct in the classroom. Though it may not be a perfect indicator of what was taught in classrooms, as it’s a tool for teachers to use, it gives an idea of what is being taught in the classroom. Examining textbooks from the past used in classrooms within the Tristate area can reveal if northern slavery was taught, and to what extent.
Examining the earliest textbook may yield an understanding of the lack of teaching, not only about northern slavery but slavery as a whole. An example of the content of what was taught in the classroom after the Civil War and in the years following can be found in The New England Primer. This book originated in 1690 and was a fixture in the classroom until the 1930s, a well over 200-year run. The textbook served as the basis of elementary education instruction. By looking at these textbook translations, historians get a sense of what was required of the majority of students at this time, along with what was taught in classrooms. Looking at the 1802 edition, the book opens with an alphabet chart. This gets taught through prayers that become progressively more complex as they go. This information indicates that understanding the alphabet was key. Depending on the quantity available, the school could have focused on reading and potentially writing to utilize this book. Within the context of these prayers, one learns about the calendar and days of the week, counting and basic mathematics, and a small amount of history. This stresses the importance of religion in the classroom at this time. The underlying message throughout the book is that God is more important than any other subject or material in the classroom. The small amount of history included is more biblical in nature but does include the basics of the American government system. The addition of the U.S. system of government is the only change from the 1773 edition, replacing prayers outlining the functions and structure of the parliament system. What this shows is that history was really not a focus in this era of education. Only those who would exceed the basic knowledge of the time would learn about more advanced information. With the perpetuation of this book into the 20th century, this basic education would be what was taught to many poor American individuals and black Americans. More fortunate areas would receive new textbooks and educational material, phasing this material out or relying on it less exclusively. Those less fortunate areas would be using this information exclusively until the 1930s. The New England Primer is referred to as the “Bible of one-room schoolhouse education”. The lack of history not only assists in the loss of the knowledge of northern slavery but of the entire institution of slavery as a whole. These individuals would want the history they learned as children in school. A slow creep of this altered history would make its way to the north.
Movements were made to suppress and remove the teaching of not only northern slavery but all of black history. The most prominent of these would be “The Lost Cause”, the movement to honor the legacy of the confederacy. This movement would begin in the 1870s as reconstruction would begin to fail. The lost cause mentality would paint the black community as unable to attain the same equality as white individuals due to the efforts attempting to create equality failed. This gave rise to the notion that the confederates were noble in their sacrifice to fight for slavery. It rewrites the telling of the history that “there was nothing ‘lost’ about the southern cause”. This was due to the mindset that black Americans were only good at being servants to white men. Monuments and memorials to honor the confederacy would be constructed such as the statues of Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee. By the 1890s this movement would sink its teeth into the education system of the north. The goal was to rewrite history books to reflect the southern perspective and preserve its honor. This movement is regarded as a reunion of America’s racist mentality as it proposed the Civil War was caused by other factors, not slavery. It also created this idea of the “happy slave”, the idea that there were enslaved individuals that loved slavery and serving the white man. Women’s organizations and the state department of education were the ones in charge of advocating for approving educational material for schools. Many became strong supporters of the lost cause and by the 1920’s it would be integrated into schools across the north and especially in New Jersey.
Before the alteration of the history would appear, strides were made to bring the history of northern slavery to the forefront. In the 1870s history books began to include slavery within their content. The oldest examined history textbook to bear mention of slavery is the Condensed History of The United States from 1871. This book was used in a classroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, as demonstrated by the address of the school on the front cover pages with the initial date of October 31, 1888. On the page adjacent, student names are written, with the last one being 1899, giving the text an eleven-year confirmed usage in the classroom. The cover pages are full of notes made by students long past, however, one stands out amongst the rest. This particular note is a prayer, one found word for word from the 1812 edition of the New England Primer. This detail establishes that in this classroom, the two books were in fact utilized together. This class was learning American history alongside the basics in the New England Primer. The town had the economic resources present to invest in its youth’s education. The students within this town received a higher quality of education than those of poorer communities. However, what did these students learn about not only northern slavery but the institution of slavery as a whole?
This history tells a very interesting version of America’s past, but what is interesting is what is left out. There is no mention of slavery until what they call the “War of Secession” is discussed. The book starts with the discovery of the new world and the establishment of each American state at the time of its publication, but not one mention of slavery till that point. The book does establish that there was northern slavery by directly stating “At the time of adoption of the Constitution, slavery existed in the Northern as well as the Southern States”. It provides an impressive analysis for its time detailing the various legal cases pertaining to slavery such as Dred Scott v. Sanford. There is a fascinating inaccuracy with the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments; as the book details that Johnson was president for their passing. It details that the passing of these amendments was the cause of the issues between the President and the other two branches, rather than Reconstruction. In fact, the only mention of Reconstruction at all is Johnson vetoing the Reconstruction Act of 1865 rather than discussing any of the programs created by it. This alteration to history has two possible reasons for the inaccuracy. The first is more innocent, being in the title of the book “condensed”. Reconstruction not only is a long process and would officially end in 1877. The book was written in 1874 meaning that reconstruction was still ongoing at the time. Writing on its effects could be taken as more speculatory and not factual information as the book attempts to stick exclusively to. The second is the seed of the lost cause making its way into the material. The ideology of the lost cause deemed Reconstruction a failure and did not warrant time discussion. Its omission is telling that this influence was seeping into the education of these students. However, what is most interesting is what it says about how slavery ended in the north. After detailing the increase of southern populations due to the cotton gin, it stated, “In the North, on the other hand, where slave labor was not profitable, slavery soon died out”. It leads to the idea that in the 1850s slavery was extinct in the north, however, the reality was quite different. Slavery was very much alive in the north during the 1850s.
Looking at the history of just New Jersey alone, there is a far different reality of northern slavery from this telling in the textbook. Starting as far back as the 1790s, New Jersey was split over the issue of slavery. Quakers were strongly against it; they interpreted enslaved people as people due to the wording of the constitution. The three-fifths compromise of 1787 also reinforced their claim that enslaved individuals were people. The opposition viewed freedom as an economic catastrophe. The labor force for the majority of the state’s highest-grossing markets were nearly entirely enslaved or indentured servant individuals. They saw that liberation would make the industries of agriculture, ironworking, and factory manufacturing unprofitable. The debate over a compromise began in 1797 but would reach its conclusion in 1804 with the gradual abolition act, also referred to as the “free womb” act. This legislation gave freedom to all enslaved individuals born after July 4th, 1804 on their 21st birthday. This allowed slave owners to have the labor force they needed to make up for the economic loss of abolition and granted enslaved people their freedom at a set point. The average life expectancy of an enslaved individual in New Jersey at this time was forty-one years. This meant that they would likely have had only half their life to live if they even made it to freedom. The act was filled with loopholes that allowed the continuation of slavery in the state well after the projected period of total abolition. The idea was to have all enslaved individuals freed by the 1830s. The issue was with the clause that allowed children born while in the period of the enslavement term were to be placed in the care of the local principality. Principalities were the townships and counties that reside within the State of New Jersey. Many of the individuals in charge of managing the treatment of these children would give them right back into the hands of their masters, making them slaves till their 21st birthday. This is how the enslaved population grew far larger than it was in 1804 by the 1860s.
The inaccuracies of the teaching of northern slavery would have disastrous consequences to its very existence by later generations. The pervasive belief that slavery was all but extinct in the north by the 1860s is evidence of the start of the “the amnesia of slavery”. This is a term coined by historian James Gigantino II in his book The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941. What he seeks to illustrate is how Northern states such as New Jersey with such a large and prosperous enslaved population forgot that slavery even occurred in their own backyards. The reason for this was that slavery was looked at as an “insignificant sideshow” in the state. Many northern slaveowners owned only one or two slaves, thus making the reminders of an enslaved past virtually nonexistent to those that were not directly affected by it. What the Condensed U.S. History textbook shows us is this amnesia occurring. In a time when enslaved individuals and their children were very much still alive, their suffering is being forgotten. There is no active backlash as those with the ability to change the material have little to no interest. This early removal of teaching about what occurred beneath these students’ feet will send shockwaves to later generations and reach into the modern classroom.
There would be a push to expand the teaching of northern slavery upon the turn of the century before the influence of the Klan would take hold. This is evident in the textbook Stories of New Jersey by Frank R. Stockton. This book was published in 1896 and the copy analyzed was printed in 1904. The inside cover indicates the book originated from a Princeton classroom before finding its way into the Library of Congress. It is worth noting that this book is back in reproduction and the Amazon description of the book reads that it was “so popular over the years in NJ schools that it has in itself become a part of New Jersey’s history”. This book possesses a unique feature that is exclusive to this book and none other, even textbooks today. This feature is an entire chapter dedicated to the history of enslaved individuals in the state from 1626-1867. What this chapter says about slavery in the state is incredibly unique, especially for its time of publication. The section begins with Dutch settlers bringing enslaved individuals over with them in 1626 to develop the inhospitable land and form their colony. Enslaved individuals were expendable and would do the labor that would normally require a far more physical toll on the body. They became the largest group of workers in the booming iron industry, logging, and of course, the plantations popping up across the land. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered their colonies to the English empire. In this exchange, many changes would appear in the lives of those original settlers, but slavery was not changed. Slavery remained in this state for over 200 years after this point. This early slavery history even includes an entire section on how Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was the slave trade capital in the north and distributed enslaved individuals throughout the northern colonies. This was all true. While other texts around this period ignore this history, this book sought to put a spotlight on it. Following details of the atrocious conditions the enslaved people in the state faced and the lack of large plantations like the south, it noted that large numbers of individuals owned one or two enslaved individuals. This kept slavery as a pivotal force in the community and essential to its economy. If this text was utilized in the classroom to the fullest, many students would have learned a genuine and dark history of the establishment of the state’s institutions. However, this very insightful history becomes inaccurate regarding the abolition of slavery.
The first half of the telling of northern slavery from Stories of New Jersey is remarkable with its depiction of northern slavery for its time, but that narrative falls apart when reaching the abolition of slavery in the state. While it does portray an accurate picture, much of it is far from the truth. The first comes in the debates over the gradual abolition act of 1804. The book describes it as Quakers becoming abolitionists; the three-fifths compromise made their view under the law that these were people, not property, and entitled to the same rights. The opposition saw slavery as an economic necessity as the work they were doing was dangerous. These were undesirable jobs no one wanted to do in their society. This debate over the issue does remain close to the reality that transpired. The text makes a crucial error in stating the gradual abolition bill that allowed the abolition of slavery on one’s twenty-first birthday passed in 1820 rather than 1804. This alteration of the date creates a precedent that the abolition of slavery was far faster and more efficient. It creates the idea that New Jersey’s policy was successful and had no issues with its implementation. Further errors found in the section support this idea that the solution the state implemented was successful. When discussing the results of the act it directly states, “in 1840 there were still six-hundred and seventy-four slaves in the state, and by 1860 only eighteen slaves remained, and these must have been very old”. These numbers couldn’t be further from the truth as slavery was still going strong by the 1850s.
What is missing from the Stories of New Jersey textbook are those who were wrongfully enslaved. The text leaves out the dark reality that a percentage of slavery occurring in the state was children who were supposed to be free. The 1804 Gradual abolition act forced some of the children born to enslaved mothers into a life of enslavement until their twenty-first birthday. The census of children being born from 1804-1835 to exclusively enslaved mothers shows five hundred and forty-one documented children. It is estimated that in the year 1850, while documentation may say two hundred and thirty-six, far more were illegally in service. The text also does not acknowledge the abolition of slavery in its entirety in 1866. The wording makes it appear it ended gradually by 1860 citing the success of the gradual abolition act. This misinformation will impact generations to come as it was the definitive history of the state. It took until 2008 for the New Jersey government to finally formally apologize for its slave-owning past and its failure to step in and end its illegal perpetuation. Though it may not be the most perfect telling of the history, it’s evidence that people were trying to teach the injustice that happened within their state. Slavery was not relegated to a small part of the civil war, rather it merited its own chapter dedicated to the hardships and debate over its abolishment. While this book is making its way into classrooms, so is the Klan. The Klan would attempt to rapidly spread in the education field and in the coming decades as part of its resurgence. This growth would ultimately transform the history of northern slavery.
The Klans’ takeover of northern education and purging of the history of not just northern slavery, but the entire institution is seen within the textbooks of the 1920s. The 1924 textbook An Elementary History of New Jersey by Earle Thomson is dramatically different from the textbook from 1904. What distinguishes this book aside is absolutely no mention of slavery of any kind. This textbook was definitely used within the state, as in the preface the author thanked superintendents and principals who commissioned a book to express their shared view of the truly important history and to add tools that would enhance student understanding. The schools this particular book was used in included Union, Hackensack, Newark, and Westfield. There may have been more schools adopting this book, however, those are unmentioned by the author, and no indication is left on any of the Library of Congress documentation. The book directly states that “children should be taught in some detail the history of their own state and of its part in the development and progress of the country” while omitting a major part of their history. The larger shocking piece is that only the conflict of the Civil War is discussed. There is no lead-up; it just dropped the reader right into the conflict. It appears that only the victory of the war was significant, but not what they were fighting for or even the amendments that followed. This text is pivotal to understanding the shift in the classroom. The lost cause ideology had reached the apex of its hold on the classroom. The removal of all mention of slavery or black Americans was done to illustrate how unimportant the black community was and how futile any action to promote equality was. However, its removal may have been far more purposeful than just a desire to push this lost cause ideology.
The Klan had far larger ambitions than just the omission of slavery from educational material during the 1920s. The book The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition by Linda Gordon sheds light on this exact time period. The Klan was a notorious hate group created in the aftermath of the Civil War but it saw a resurgence in the 1920s. This revived Klan was stronger in the North than in the southern states of the nation and focused on the education system of the time. Their priority was the recruitment of white American youth to continue their organization into the coming generations. This involved integration of the Klan into the material taught in schools. The Klan and those associated with them edited the material to reflect the beliefs of the organization. This makes recruitment easier as the Klan reflects the morals and values secretly supplanted into the minds of susceptible students. This was most evident in the teaching of history in the classroom. Klansmen in positions of authority in schools such as superintendents used their influence to alter texts found in the classroom. This involved the recreation of textbooks to fit their nefarious agenda. The lack of a mention of slavery or even the leadup or aftermath of the civil war in the 1924 textbook is evidence of known involvement. It’s unclear if any of the principals or superintendents credited in the textbook are Klansmen, but the influence is quite evident. The textbook states, “This book is in no sense a complete history of New Jersey, the author hopes that its study may prove an inspiration to the purple to become an upright citizen of his community or state”. The absence of this major time period in the state’s history is done in a way to not invoke question. Unless there is other supplemental material taught in the classroom, the dark history of the state and the nation are removed from the collective memory. This book directly shows how “the amnesia of slavery” occurred not only in the state of New Jersey but across northern states. With the widespread recruitment push for new Klansmen, anyone learning in schools around this time would have no recollection of northern slavery’s existence. All the work in the decades past to bring this history into the classroom has been completely undone. Any book touching on the subject would have to start from scratch if the goals of those behind the book were successful.
Following the end of the Second World War, the U.S. would revisit the teaching of northern slavery. The post-war U.S. began to enter a period of civil rights and reforms as the Truman administration began to assist in the abolishment of segregation. This gets reflected in the 1947 U.S. history textbook American History by Howard Wilson and Wallice Lamb. This textbook is fascinating due to its creation. The book states that the author’s intentions for writing the textbook were to “include history and perspectives from this great nation that have been forgotten or removed over the years”. This indicates that the creation of the book was to teach a history that includes information removed by the Klan and other parties. The authors attempted to devise a history from the ground up that includes lost information including slavery. It kept its promise by including a simplified version of the slave trade and the quantity of forced labor employed. The text also looked into how the institution of slavery was a fundamental part of colonization in the Americas. It may not be the most perfect of tellings as it leaves the atrocities that faced the enslaved individuals out. This is significant as it leaves out the horrors that faced enslaved individuals. It creates the notion that this was a great injustice on the part of the colonists but was not as horrific as the reality of the situation. It keeps the reader, most likely a white student, separated from the event allowing no remorse for the actions of their forefathers to the black community. This was the last instance of slavery mentioned till the causes of the Civil War. There are two chapters dedicated to the development of agriculture and industry in the northern states and the southern states, but there is no mention of slavery whatsoever. What this does is reinforces the idea that slavery was there, but it wasn’t important in the continued development of the nation. The practice of slavery was only significant in establishing a foothold on the land. It makes the institution and the horrors faced by the enslaved people insignificant to economic development. However, coverage of the Civil War period possessed an interesting take on the content.
The 1947 textbooks’ stance on the Civil War and its aftermath indicate a deviation from the stranglehold of the Klan in education. The period leading up to the war has an interesting take on slavery. The text neither condemns nor supports either side of the debate on slavery. It creates this awkwardly neutral state when describing the situation that caused the suffering of so many. This is important as the goal appears to not anger those with sentiment in support of slavery. The author appears to be holding back their opinion on the matter and not getting into depth on the horrific reality. The text does have an allusion to the idea that the northern states either abandoned or abolished the practice. It describes this trope of the north being “abolitionist”, that there was no one within the state that opposed slavery. Following the end of the war, it does something unique to this text. The textbook described the reconstruction period in a way to appear successful rather than what happened in reality. The book described Reconstruction as establishing property in the south with 40 acres and a mule proposition. It describes how many would remain in the south as they were given property. What is also interesting is that it discusses the surge of newly freed black individuals getting into office as they finally received the right to vote. The book describes the downfall of the reconstruction as due to irresponsible spending of tax dollars and the creation of the Klan forcing black Americans to stay out of government and politics. The text portrays the Klan as the villain in reconstruction. It signifies a shift in public opinion and the elimination of their grasp on the education system. Information that pushes back on the lost cause narrative by showing that Reconstruction was sabotaged is making its way into schools. The neutral dialog however does indicate their presence is still there. The Klans’ limited presence is also indicated by the book leaving out many important details such as lynchings, or even the Great Migration of Black Americans to the north for work. These events had the potential to paint the Klan that existed at this time rather than the early organization during the reconstruction era in a negative light. The Klan may not have been as strong as they were in the previous decades, but was still a prominent organization throughout the nation, especially in the north. The textbooks telling of slavery does reinforce the notion that slavery was exclusively a southern problem, but this is not the first time this will occur.
Northern slavery’s absence in the classroom may not have been excluded due to racist involvement in the material. The relegation to slavery being exclusively southern is an issue that perpetuates to this modern day. This trend is one that Mr.Vikos, a former high school history teacher is very familiar with the pattern of returning to relegating slavery to exclusively the south. Mr. Vikos taught in Brooklyn from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. His insight into the teaching of northern slavery illustrates how racism is not the only factor in the removal of this information. In the late 60s, his school was facing a large influx of black students due to the end of segregation in 1963. The school would become nearly 100% black by 1975 and the teachers wanted to teach material that reflected the classroom’s demographics. This involved teaching northern slavery when the pre-Civil War era would arise in the classroom. “Students did enjoy the content at first, but as the years went on there were an increasing number of issues. The first was general confusion as students would get confused on what side slavery was on during the actual conflict. The second and most important issue was the lack of care. The students had no interest in learning about slavery that occurred here (New York)”. Eventually the teaching of northern slavery would be reduced as issues with the content would arise. “Readings on northern slavery were present in the classroom, but the likelihood anyone of the students remembered them a decade later is highly unlikely”. The teaching of northern slavery was present, but students would be the driving factor in its reduction. Eventually, the material would return to the idea that the north were free states and the south was slave states. There is a cycle of the subject of northern slavery appearing and then disappearing. The topic becomes introduced, it reaches a height where the issue is really focused on, and then an outside force acts, reducing the discussion back to the beginning. This trend can be seen between the textbooks from 1874 to 1924 with the Klan removing the material and again from 1947 to the 1970s when student interest would reduce its discussion. This trend would continue into the modern day. This becomes evident with the current lack of understanding of northern slavery even though the material is now present in almost every classroom in northern schools. The decades from the 1980s to the mid-2010s only serve to continue this trend.
To prove this theory of the teaching of northern slavery being a cycle, the decade of the 1980s serves as a point to see the material reintroduced. The 1980 textbook American History Review Text by Irving Gordon illustrates an interesting trend in the telling of history. This book was used in Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York throughout the 1980s and into the early 90s. The textbook immediately began with the colonization of America and the triangle trade after establishing a background on the New World. It also does a fantastic job of illustrating the population differences between the enslaved population and the white Europeans. This detail is that “slavery was found as a common practice throughout all English thirteen colonies”.Through discussing early American slavery, the inclusion that it existed within the entirety of the nation does allow the student reading to understand that the institution of slavery was in fact present in the north. Continuing the traditional organization structure, the textbook only mentions slavery only at the colonization of America and prior to the Civil War. This structure continues to assist in undermining the severity and longevity of the institution of slavery. When it begins to discuss the pre-Civil war era, it does call out hypocrisy. Though it may be two paragraphs, it sheds light on the hypocrisy of northern slavery. This hypocrisy was the north participating in slavery while simultaneously vilifying the south for participating in the exact same practice. This is significant as this is the first textbook examined to touch upon this issue. Not only does it bring to light northern slavery, but the textbook condemns the north for criticizing southern slavery before it abolished the practice fully within its states. Upon reaching the point of reconstruction, the textbook’s messages begin to shift.
Though time long since passed the time of Klan involvement, the telling of the history still bears its scars. The language of the text leads to assumptions with the vocabulary used to describe the black community at different points. In the beginning, they were described as “Africans” who then transitioned into being referred to as “enslaved” individuals. In the years during reconstruction, they are referred to as “Black”. However, once reconstruction ends they become “negros”. What this shows is the perpetuation of the lost cause mentality through the vocabulary. The idea of referring to black individuals as “negros” in this text is to establish the notion that the black community during the point of reconstruction and after are two different kinds of people. There also are present many allusions to what is going on in the north but the reality is vastly different. An example of this is the education system constructed in the south during Reconstruction. It stated “Negros, as well as whites, were guaranteed free compulsory public education by the reconstruction constitutions of the southern states. However, after the southern whites regained control, Negros received schooling that was segregated and inferior”. This line does highlight the notion that there was segregation and inferior education in the south but makes it appear that it was not a problem in the north. Segregated schools were prominent in the north as well and in some cases persisted far longer than they were legally able to. What this wording does that becomes commonplace is make the south sound like a racist and discriminatory place and paint the northern states in a light that is far from the reality that existed. The textbook does a decent job of illustrating the regression of the discussion of northern slavery. It may establish the institution existed in the north, but it lacks descriptions of the conditions. The text also regresses to race-charged wording linking its connection to the history of previous Klan-influenced textbooks. This would change as the nation entered the 1990s.
The discussion on northern slavery would continue due to its prioritization. The 90s would be a point where the material on northern slavery would begin to grow once again. Starting in 1996, Mr.Vikos would be responsible for approving textbooks for schools in the central headquarters. When asked about the criteria for what textbooks got approved, he would respond with the topic of slavery. He recalled how “many textbooks would just have a paragraph or two on the subject of slavers as a whole. It is impossible to cover all of the slavery in a single book, how do you do it in one paragraph? A textbook would only get passed if it discussed the social, political, and economic factors of both the north and the south”. He would stress the economic section as this would be the deciding factor of slavery’s perpetuation for both the north and the south. What was illustrated was a reinvigoration of the content. This was an individual who was passionate about bringing this information to the classroom and was in a place to do so. With the discovery of the massive burial of enslaved individuals in Manhattan a few years prior, there was a draw into teaching northern slavery.
As time progresses into the modern day, the pattern of the rise and fall of northern slavery’s discussion in the classroom only becomes more rapid of a cycle. Three different versions of the American Pageant textbook by Thomas Bailey, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen illustrate the perpetuation of the rise and fall of northern slavery in the classroom. The editions in question are the 2006, 2013, and 2016 versions. What makes these books unique is that they are currently in use in schools in New Jersey. The ones examined were in the possession of students actively using them in the classroom. What makes this even more interesting is the parts that were changed. The beginning chapters detail the triangle trade and the enslavement of the native American populations and the African populations. It even includes how slavery reach the American colonies in 1619 from captured slaves en route to Spanish colonies diverted to Virginia. The wording is almost exactly word for word between editions, so uniform it’s almost conspicuous. The differences become starkly relevant when the discussion of American slavery comes to question.
The three discussed American Pageant textbooks present differences that illustrate the increase and decline of the topic of northern slavery. Each book possessed a section dedicated to slavery between the founding of the nation and the civil war, slavery prior to the civil war, and a chapter on reconstruction. The differences become apparent in the first few paragraphs of the section. The 2006 edition was altered to include a deeper perspective of northern slavery following the revelation that attempts to include the material were unsuccessful. This is evident as the edition remarked that in the north there was freedom being attained, but there was more hatred of black Americans than in the south. This gets reinforced by the story of an individual who was born enslaved in the south, sold in New York City, and was eventually freed after eight years of servitude and the conditions she lived in after gaining freedom. The textbook accurately portrayed the conditions of slavery, and by covering the north before the south in the description of slavery, it gives the impression that slavery was equally horrible in practice throughout the nation. The 2013 edition states that northern slavery was just small farms with no large-scale plantations. It goes into detail about how New York abolished all of its slavery and possessed far better-living conditions than the south. This entirely changes the established narrative that slavery was a horrible practice. The text almost glorifies the practice of slavery in the state of New York. The 2016 edition resolves these issues by taking the best aspects of the two together. It largely emphasizes the story of the enslaved woman by giving it its own dedicated page. It includes an interesting insight into the northern slavery perspective. It does an excellent job of discussing how “few northerners were prepared for the outright abolition of slavery”. It goes in-depth at looking at the economic issues facing the north if it were to abolish slavery and the general view of the population wanting reform rather than abolition. The description of the popular view of the time feeds into a clearer understanding of the northern hypocrisy. This being the desire to abolish slaves in the south rather than within their own borders. The combining of the best of the two prior editions is the greatest strength of the sixteenth edition. Due to its publication date, the revised text containing a large amount of northern slavery material could be due to the political climate in 2016. The contentious political election sought to reinvigorate the discussion of slavery, especially that of northern states. This may be only speculation due to the recentness of this change, but outside forces like that are indicators of material like this being reintroduced based on the previously analyzed patterns in the earlier textbooks discussed. The three different textbooks indicate a falling point in the 2006 edition due to the reinvigoration in the 90s, a low point in 2015 as northern slavery was no longer in style, and then a spike in 2016 due to a shifting political climate.
What the analysis of these texts indicate is a disturbing trend of periodically increasing and decreasing the teaching of northern slavery in the northern states. There are large and periodic appearances of this under-discussed material and it appears to almost be predictable.
We begin to see it untaught in the classroom in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. This was due to the material being largely sourced from the New England Primer, a book that focused on basic language, mathematics, and civic education. The exclusivity of this textbook would fuel the “lost cause” ideology. This ideology was the belief that the south was justified in fighting for slavery as reconstruction failed, proving black individuals could never be equal to their white counterparts.The discussion of northern slavery begins to increase in the mid-1870s based on the material from Condensed U.S. History from 1874. Though the description of events leads much of the history of northern slavery out, it does make its appearance known. Entering the 20th century we see a boom in the discussion of the material. In the textbook of the history of New Jersey, Stories of New Jersey, there is a detailed history of slavery in the state. It goes as far back as the Dutch and only gets slightly inaccurate in the end with the eventual abolition of the institution. This revolutionary discussion of the material comes crashing down in the 1920s. This is illustrated by the 1924 textbook An Elementary History of New Jersey. Its lack of not only the discussion of slavery in the north, but the absence of the entire practice is the ultimate goal of the “lost cause”. It indicates the idea of the Klan using education as a way to indoctrinate young and new members, and this came at the price of editing textbooks to reflect their views on society. Textbooks and educational material would bear the scars from this alteration for dedicated to come.
The coming age of civil rights reform would attempt to distance itself from the past. The restructuring of this discussion of northern slavery is illustrated in the 1947 textbook American History. Its limited appearance shows that the topic once again rose into the discussion. From the perspective of a history teacher from the late 60s to the mid-1970s, coverage began to increase once again to a clear point in the late 60s as schools finally began to become more diverse due to an end of segregation. Northern slavery’s discussion then began to fall in the 70s as the civil rights movement would lose its ground in the years following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The discussion on northern slavery would reach a low in the 1980s and gets illustrated by the 1980 history textbook American History Review Text. It may call out the North but it shows clear evidence of promoting the “lost cause” mentality due to its racially charged language. The 90’s would see a rise in the discussion of northern slavery again as the discovery of the largest enslaved cemetery in the nation would be found under Manhattan. The depth of the discussion on northern slavery reached a height in 2006 with the American Pageant 13th edition. It includes a detailed section on slavery in New York and that the horrors of slavery were present in the north. It even details how northerners viewed the practice as unjust but did little to nothing to end it within their states while criticizing the south. From this height there is a dramatic fall in the 2013 edition of the same textbook. It led to the idea that slavery was small in the north and that it was far better in conditions than in the south. It also creates the illusion that it was abolished by the 1860s rather than continuing throughout the civil war. Lastly, we see a jump in the discussion emerging in 2016. The American Pageant textbook’s 16th edition rectifies this issue of a decrease in the discussion. It adds material from the 2006 edition and expands on the practice and conditions of northern slavery. It’s unclear what the cause of this shift could be, but one could only speculate it was done out of a response to the changing climates and the increased national discussion on the longevity of the impacts the institution of slavery had on the nation.
With these trends highlighted, it’s important to note that there has never been a steady teaching of the material. Teachers have struggled with finding ways to get the material across without creating unnecessary confusion. The importance of this subject is unparalleled as its atrocities have never truly been righted. The perpetuation of these trends creates a lost history of the horrifying events that unfolded beneath the feet of students. They can adequately describe the atrocities that happened in distant states but are oblivious to the same atrocities that happened only a few miles away. The lack of a focus or understanding of what happened in the backyards of both teachers and students alike truly creates and perpetuates the “the amnesia of slavery”.
There is hope however that this continuous issue does get brought to light in the classroom. The awareness on the part of the students and teachers alike can see an end to its repetition. Teachers bringing this issue to the forefront and explaining to students that slavery happened here, and that it goes undiscussed, may inspire students to speak up when this topic is left out. Activism on this issue is key to maintaining its presence in the classroom and that these forgotten lessons never become forgotten again.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 13th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2006.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 15th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2013.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 16th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2016.
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Gordon, Irving L. Review Text in American History. New York, NY: AMSCO School Publications, 1980.
Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
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Pearcy, Mark, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, The History Teacher, Volume 52 Number 4, Society for History Education, August 2019
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Vikos, George and Greenstein, Andrew. Conversation at Marina Cafe, Staten Island NY, November 14th, 2022
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Wilson, Howard E, and Wallice E Lamb. American History. Schoharie, NY: American Book Company, 1947.
Wolinetz, Gary K., When Slavery Wasn’t a Dirty Word in NJ, New Jersey Lawyer, February 15th, 1999
Pearcy, Mark, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, The History Teacher, Volume 52 Number 4, Society for History Education, August 2019, p.611
 Pearcy, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, p.596
 Samuel Wood & Sons, Beauties of the New-England primer p.4-21
 Samuel Wood & Sons, Beauties of the New-England primer p.22-30
Westminster Assembly. The New-England primer improved: for the more easy attaining the true reading of English, to which is added, the Assembly of Divines, and Mr. Cotton’s catechism. Boston: Printed for and sold by A. Ellison, in Seven-Star Lane, 1773. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/22023945/ ,p.29-31
Mydland, Leidulf. “The Legacy of One-Room Schoolhouses: A Comparative Study of the AME…” European journal of American studies. European Association for American Studies, February 24, 2011. https://journals.openedition.org/ejas/9205.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.p.255
Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.257
Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.287
 Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.283
Swinton, William. Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States: Constructed for Definite Results in Recitation and Containing a New Method of Topical Reviews. New York, Chicago: Ivinson, Blakeman & Co., 1871, p. 235
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 236
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 288-291
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 237
 Wolinetz, When Slavery Wasn’t a Dirty Word in NJ
 New Jersey, An act for the gradual abolition of slavery.
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 6 (1): 35–55. 2020, Academic Search Premier doi:10.14713/njs.v6i1.188. Accessed 9/28/22.
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.36
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.37
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.v
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.ix
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.150
Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. p.2
 Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition p.65
 Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition p.67
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.iv
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.36
In the Spring 2022 semester, Dr. Nancy Hagedorn of the Department of History led a group of history students to develop a Digital History of Slavery and Runaways in New York.
As part of the history department’s efforts to help students develop historical research and digital technology skills, students created an innovative, public history using arcGIS Story Maps.
The project was conceived as an applied history course to introduce students to digital history methods and techniques by focusing on New York runaway ads. The class began by reading about digital history and its methods and uses, and then extensively about the history of runaways and slavery generally. Finally, the class focused on slavery in New York and New York City specifically. To facilitate the class’ digital history research and answer questions about slavery and runaways in New York, members compiled a database of New York runaway ads using transcribed ads culled primarily from the Freedom on the Move database at Cornell University. The class input data on 641 runaways between 1730 and 1811, and also compiled census data on slaveholding in New York State using the Northeast Slave Records Index at Lloyd Sealy Library and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
More information on the project can be found online.
For Juneteenth 2022, the City of Yonkers debuted a permanent art exhibit honoring the legacy of the nation’s first freed slaves. The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden includes five life-size bronze sculptures created by artist Vinnie Bagwell depicting formerly enslaved Africans. The sculpture garden is located along the Yonkers Hudson River esplanade. According to Bagwell, “Public art sends a message about the values and priorities of a community. In the spirit of transformative justice for acts against the humanity of black people, I am grateful for those who supported this collective effort. The strongest aspect of the Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden coming to fruition is that it begins to address the righting of so many wrongs by giving voice to the previously unheard via accessible art in a public place while connecting the goals of artistic and cultural opportunities to improving educational opportunities and economic development.”
In Yonkers, Philipse Manor Hall was the seat of the Philipsburg Manor, a colonial estate that covered more than 52,000 acres of Westchester land. The Philipse family was involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and probably as many as two-dozen enslaved African slaves worked and lived at the manor. The enslaved Africans were freed in 1799, one of the first large emancipations in the United States. New York State finally ended slavery in 1827.
New York City has some of the best drinking water in the country, but it did not come without a price. Most are familiar with the Croton Aqueduct, the first to bring fresh water to the city in 1842 and updated in 1890. Catskill Aqueduct was next (a push after Brooklyn was incorporated into the City of New York), built between 1917 and 1924, bringing 40% of New York City’s water from a series of reservoirs 163 miles away in upstate New York. New Yorkers may not know the six reservoirs of the Catskill Aqueduct, including Ashokan Reservoir, New York City’s largest, were formed by flooding a dozen towns.
The plan for the Catskill Aqueduct began in 1905 when the New York City Board of Water Supply was formed, allowing for the acquisition of property by eminent domain and the construction of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts. The area in question was formerly a farming area, with logging and the quarrying of bluestone, some of which ended up on the Brooklyn Bridge. Two thousand people were relocated, including a thousand New Yorkers with second homes. Thirty-two cemeteries were unearthed and the 1,800 residents reburied elsewhere, to limit water contamination. Residents were offered $15 by the city ($65 later for the Delaware Aqueduct) to disinter their relatives and move them elsewhere.
Buildings and industries were relocated or burned down, trees and brush were removed from the future reservoir floor–all the work done predominantly by local laborers, African-Americans from the south and Italian immigrants. To control the fighting that arose between labor groups, a police force that became the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) Police, was created. In sum, four towns were submerged while eight were relocated to build the Ashokan Reservoir. When the dam was completed, steam whistles were blown for an hour warning residents that the water was coming. Today, remnants of foundations, walls, and more can still be seen, particularly when water levels are lower–often in the fall. Although access to the reservoirs has been limited since 9/11, you can see some of those archeological finds from bridges. You can also hike and bike along a ridge of the reservoir.
The last of the eminent domain lawsuits in the Ashokan Reservoir area was not settled in 1940 and it was not until 2002 that New York City made any moves to acknowledge the history in the Esopus Valley. The NYCDEP installed an outdoor exhibition in Olive, New York that commemorated the lost towns and the feat of the aqueduct itself, with the intention to add exhibits at five other reservoirs (although we were not able to find that the exhibition or any others are still available). Signage now shows the sites of the former towns.
The Delaware Aqueduct is the most recent of the city’s aqueducts and its story is similar to the Catskill Aqueduct. The Pepacton Reservoir (aka the Downsville Reservoir or the Downsville Dam) was formed by flooding four towns and submerging half of the existing Delaware and Northern Railroad. This reservoir provides 25% of the city’s drinking water, and combined the Catskill and Delaware Aqueduct provides 90% of the city’s water. In total, the construction of these reservoirs and aqueducts resulted in the destruction of 25 communities and the relocation of 5,500 across five New York State counties. Something to think about the next time you run the tap in New York City.
Social studies and history teachers routinely cover the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution in their courses. But every state also has a “birthday” (the day it got started as a state) and its own state constitution. The origins of states and their first constitutions can be very useful teaching tools, adding a new dimension to students’ historical insight and understanding.
New York State is an outstanding example. April 20 is New York’s Birthday! That was the date in 1777 when the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York, an ad hoc group elected the previous year to guide New York’s Revolutionary War efforts and develop its first constitution, finished work on that document.
The story of New York’s first state constitution is a dramatic one. New York had moved from steadfast loyalty to Britain to reluctant rebelling colony to a full-scale push for independence through the actions of three Provincial Congresses, the first elected in 1775, to guide New York in the growing alienation from Britain. The “Convention of Representatives” had been elected the year before as New York’s fourth Provincial Congress. Meeting initially in White Plains, they authorized New York’s representatives to the Continental Congress to approve the Declaration of Independence in early July, then, to keep out of reach of British forces, fled north to Fishkill and finally to Kingston where they completed their work. Along the way, they changed their name from Provincial Congress to Convention of Representatives of the State of New York.
When they began their work it wasn’t entirely clear just what a “state” was. People knew about colonies/provinces (New York had been one), and nations or nation-states as they were sometimes called (such as Britain). There were few precedents of models to draw on. Other colonies-becoming-states were writing their own first constitutions. The Articles of Confederation, which would link the new states together, was not completed until November 1777. The U.S. Constitution was a decade in the future. The creative New York drafters drew on their own experience in colonial government, their knowledge of European writers on the concepts of natural rights and representative government, and a few American leading-edge advocates such as Massachusetts’ John Adams. But mostly they drew on their own creativity and improvisation.
The delegates worked in haste and approved the final draft of their document, which still had strikeouts and marginal notes when they signed it. There was no time to make a clean copy before sending the document to the printer. They took a day off but the next day, April 22, the convention’s secretary mounted a flour barrel outside the court house where the group had worked and read it aloud to Kingston citizens.
New York State had in effect proclaimed itself into existence.
The document began by quoting the Declaration of Independence. This connected New York with the other colonies asserting their independence. It stated that the convention acting “in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State doth ordain, determine, and declare that no authority shall on any pretense whatever shall be exercised over the people or members of this State, but such as shall be derived from and granted by them.” In 1777, a document purporting to represent the consensus and will of the people, and their right to govern themselves, was a startling, radical departure from the past.
The 1777 constitution is just over 5000 words in length, It outlined the structure and purposes of state government but did not provide much detail.
It created a two-house legislature — one house, the Assembly, to be more numerous and more broadly representative of the people, and the other, the Senate, to be smaller and more attuned to the interests and property. That basic structure is still in place today.
It declared that “the supreme executive power and authority of this State shall be vested in a governor” who “shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” That wording is similar to what exists in the current State Constitution. But the 1777 writers had had enough experience with the King of England and some colonial governors who had over-asserted their power that they hedged the authority of New York State’s governor. Instead of giving the governor veto power over bills passed by the legislature, they created a “Council of Revision” consisting of the governor, chancellor, and judges of the supreme court with veto power. Rather than giving the governor sole appointment power, they vested that in a “Council of Appointment,” consisting of the governor and four senators chosen annually by the Assembly, to approve all appointments.
The document made only a brief reference the courts; fleshing that out later would require legislative action. Voting rights were restricted to men who met certain property-holding or other requirements.
The Constitution was not very long but it was a sound beginning. Hastily-organized elections were held in the spring and summer. The first legislature assembled in Kingston in September and got to work. The newly-elected governor, General George Clinton, had to await a lull in the fighting to come to Kingston, take the oath office, make the first gubernatorial address, and then hurry back to lead troops again.
The fledgling government did not have tranquility for long. It had to flee as British troops arrived and assaulted and burned Kingston on October 16. The legislature soon re-assembled in Poughkeepsie and resumed work. By then, patriot forces had defeated British incursions from the west (at Oriskany, August 6), the east (at Bennington, on August 16) and the north (at Saratoga, October 17, a major victory that became the turning point of the Revolution).
1777 turned out to be something of a “miracle year.” New York State was here to stay. The new constitution endured without major changes until 1821.
There are many ways of approaching the use of the first State Constitution in social studies and history courses. Some possibilities:
*It is an inspiring, against-the-odds story. It is a story of people determined to control their own collective affairs through representative government. At the beginning of 1777, the odds of New York’s success did not seem great. By the end of the year, New had written a constitution, established a government, held elections, fended off invasions from three directions, and survived invasion and destruction of its capital.
*It represented compromise and consensus. The writers had a number of disagreements and varying viewpoints and perspectives going into the process. But along the way they put aside their differences, compromised, and came together to develop a consensus document. That process is worthy of study now, when too often it seems difficult to reach agreement on divisive political issues.
*It was successful, flexible, and enduring. The first constitution proved to be a viable framework for years when New York grew remarkably fast. Even when the first major revisions came in 1821, the structural changes were relatively modest. The revisions abolished the Council of Revision and the Council of Appointment and replaced them with procedures more similar to what we have today.
*It left important work undone. The convention discussed abolishing the horrible practice of slavery but in the end it did not. That had to await legislation in 1799 and slavery was not formally abolished until 1827. Restrictions on men’s voting rights were gradually abolished in ensuing decades. Women finally got the right to vote in 1917. The constitution had no bill of rights other than protection of freedom of religion. The legislature enacted a bill of rights in 1787 and they were embodied in the 1821 constitutional revision. Since then, the constitution has been revised, updated, changed, and amended many times. That is a reminder that constitutions are subject to update and change over time, with voters’ approval.
*It was influential. The New York constitution includes some of the principles that were embodied in the U.S. Constitution a decade later, 1787. New York led the way in a sense. That is not surprising because New York patriot Gouverneur Morris was one of the principal writers of the New York document and a decade later, then a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Pennsylvania, he was also one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution.
*It is a source for teaching about self-government, constitutional law, and civic responsibilities. The constitution could be a source for deepening students’ understanding of self-government and their roles and responsibilities as citizens. Educating for American Democracy , a recent report on civics education, notes that students need more study of “the social, political, and institutional history of the United States in its founding era, as well as the theoretical underpinnings of our constitutional design. The state constitutions and the federal 1787 Constitution, as amended, form diverse peoples and places into an American people: one overarching political community.”
Greenwood Cemetery in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn overlooking New York Harbor was founded in 1838 and was one of the first rural cemeteries in the United States. By the 1860s, Greenwood had earned a reputation for its beauty and was a sought after place to be buried. The cemetery is a Revolutionary War historic site, part of the Battle of Long Island was fought here in August 1776, and a designated site on the Civil War Discovery Trail. In 2006, Greenwood was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior. Greenwood attracts 500,000 visitors a year, second to Niagara Falls as the nation’s greatest tourist attraction. Greenwood is still an active cemetery, serving as the resting place for over 570,000 “permanent residents.” In addition to being a cemetery, Greenwood also serves as a cultural institution that tells the history and culture of the borough and city.
In 1862, Green-Wood Cemetery established a Soldier’s Lot for the free burial of veterans who died during the Civil War. By 1865, more than 200 soldiers and sailors were buried here. African Americans were originally buried, many in unmarked graves, along the southwestern edge of the vast burial grounds in unmarked graves in what was known as “Colored Lots.” The section is now known as the “Freedom Lots.” Margaret Pine, who died in 1857, may have been the “last slave in the State of New York.” Prior to the end of slavery in New York State in 1827, she was enslaved by the family of Wynant van Zandt. Pine is buried in the main section of the cemetery.
Famous and infamous statues and monuments in Greenwood Cemetery include the Soldier’s Monument, Minerva, and Civic Virtue. The Soldier’s Monument was dedicated on Battle Hill by the City of New York to honor the 150,000 local men who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. The statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of Arts and War, is also on Battle Hill. Minerva, stands on a platform labeled “Alter of Liberty” and faces the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The statues appear to be waving to each other. The statue Civic Virtue was originally in City Hall Park and in the 1940s it was moved to the Queens Borough Hall. It was placed in Greenwood because of a public uproar that it portrayed women as treacherous creatures trying to seduce the virtuous figure that resembles Hercules. Greenwood may soon be the final resting place for a statue of James Marion Sims that was removed from New York City’s Central Park because Sims had conducted gynecological experiments on enslaved African women.
Thematic Tours of Greenwood Cemetery
John Cook (1829-1859): John E. Cook was a law clerk and ally of militant abolitionist John Brown. Cook studied law in Connecticut, fought border ruffians in Kansas, served as an abolitionist mole in Virginia, took white hostages during the Harper’s Ferry raid, and almost escaped to freedom. After the raid, he was the most hunted man in America. When Cook was captured and brought to trial, he betrayed John Brown and named fellow abolitionists in a full confession. Source: https://www.amazon.com/John-Browns-Spy-Adventurous-Confession/dp/0300180497
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887): Beecher was born in Litchfield Connecticut and attended Amherst College where he had his first taste of public speaking and joined the ministry. From 1839-1847, Beecher was a minister to a small Presbyterian congregation in Indiana. In 1847, he was appointed minister at Brooklyn’s Plymouth Congregational Church. Beecher was a staunch abolitionist. When the federal Fugitive Slave Law was passed, Beecher declared “it was a Christian’s duty to feed and shelter escaped slaves.” In 1856, Beecher sent rifles, known as “Beecher’s Bibles” to help abolitionists fighting to block slavery in the Kansas Territory. Plymouth Congregational Church, under his tutelage, purchased freedom for a number of enslaved young women. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sent Beecher to Europe to help gain support for the Union. Beecher was also an advocate for temperance and the women’s suffrage movement. After the Civil War he was embroiled in a scandal when he was accused of an affair with the wife of a church deacon. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ward_Beecher
Samuel Cornish (1795-1858): Samuel Cornish was born in Delaware and with John B. Russworm, he edited Freedom’s Journal, the first black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States. Cornish became the senior editor and later took on a position as an agent for the New York Free African schools. He was involved with a number of abolitionist organizations including the American Anti-Slavery Society, the New York City Vigilance Committee, and the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Source: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/cornish-samuel-eli-1795-1858/
Elizabeth Cushier (1837–1931): Elizabeth Cushier, born in Jamaica, New York, was a professor of medicine and one of New York’s most prominent obstetricians and surgeons. In 1868, Cushier read a medical article that sparked her interest in the field and she enrolled in the homeopathic New York Medical College for Women. A year later, Cushier transferred to Elizabeth & Emily Blackwell’s Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary. Following her graduation, Cushier furthered her studies at the University of Zurich, researching pathological and normal histology, a field of research not yet open to women in the United States. Upon her return, she was employed at the New York Infirmary as a resident physician as well as at the Woman’s Medical College as an obstetrics professor and administrator. Cushier also opened a private practice in New York City that offered gynecological surgery. She published articles and case studies for medical journals, becoming known as an expert in her field of obstetrics and gynecology. During World War I, Cushier volunteered for the Red Cross to perform relief work for French and Belgium women, children, and servicemen. Source:
Louisine Havemeyer (1855-1929): Havemeyer was a women’s rights advocate, suffragette, and pioneering art collector. With her husband, Harry Havemeyer, they created a massive art collection which included all kinds of world class artwork, particularly notable for its representation of modern French artists. Many pieces of her collection were given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source:
Susan McKinney Steward (1847-1918): McKinney Steward was born in Crown Heights in Brooklyn and was the third African-American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Steward may have decided to become a physician after the death of two of her brothers during the Civil War. Additionally, in 1866, she witnessed a cholera epidemic in Brooklyn, in which over 1,200 people died. She attended the New York Medical College for Women and graduated from medical school as valedictorian. Her medical career focused on prenatal and pediatric care and childhood disease. She established a medical practice in Brooklyn and opened a second office in Manhattan where she worked with patients of all races. She was a founder of the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary which served the African American community. Dr. Steward was an accomplished public speaker and in 1911 she addressed the first Universal Race of Congress in London, speaking about “Colored Women in America.” Source: https://www.nymc.edu/school-of-medicine-som/som-alumni-profiles/alumni-in-memorium/new-york-medical-college-for-women/susan-smith-mckinney-steward/
Lola Montez (1821–1861): Montez, born Eliza Gilbert in Ireland, became famous as a Spanish dancer, prostitute, and mistress to King Ludwig of Bavaria. She debuted in London in 1843 as “Lola Montez, Spanish dancer.” In 1846, Lola arrived in Munich and she was discovered by King Ludwig and became his mistress. Ludwig made Lola the Countess of Landsfeld, granting her citizenship and a castle in 1847. Lola wielded great political power, which she used to favor liberalism and anti-Catholicism. In 1851, Lola came to the eastern United States for a fresh start and performed as a dancer and actress. In 1856, after a failed tour in Australia, Lola settled in New York City and gathered a following as a lecturer on fashion, beautiful women and courage. Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/726/lola-montez
Frank Morgan (1890-1949): Francis Wuppermann was born in New York City. Taking the stage name “Morgan” he followed his older brother Ralph into show business, first on Broadway and then in movies. His first film was the silent movie “The Suspect.” His career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer took off when “talkies” began and his most stereotypical role was a confused but good-hearted middle aged man. Morgan is best remembered for his performance in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” in which he played five roles: the Wizard, Professor Marvel, the Emerald City doorman, the Emerald City hack driver and the Wizard’s guard. In over 100 film appearances, Morgan was nominated for two Academy Awards: for Best Actor in 1934s “The Affairs of Cellini” and for Best Supporting Actor in 1942s “Tortilla Flat.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988): Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Edward R. Murrow High School and City-As-School. While at this school, Basquiat became friends with Al Diaz and the two of them began spray painting graffiti using the pseudonym SAMO (acronym for “Same Old S—t”). One of their most famous graffiti pieces is the three-pointed crown. At age 17, Basquiat dropped out of school, his father kicked him out of the house. Basquiat slept at friends’ apartments or on park benches. In order to support himself, he panhandled, dealt drugs, and peddled hand-painted postcards and T-shirts. He often went to downtown clubs where he met well-known artists and musicians. Through these connections, Basquiat made appearances on television shows and showcased his artwork in galleries. Basquiat struggled with drug abuse and died from a heroin overdose. Source:
Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990): Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and was an American composer, conductor, pianist, and music educator. He is considered to be one of the most significant American personalities in orchestral conducting of the 20th century. In 1940, he studied at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer institute called the Tanglewood Music Center. For nearly every summer for the rest of his life, Bernstein returned to Tanglewood to teach and conduct young music students. Bernstein wrote several books and helped to found two major international music festivals, the Pacific Music Festival and the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, influencing and educating generations of young musicians. In 1958, he was the first conductor to share music on TV through his televised concert and lecture series, Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. He became the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and was given the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor. His best known work on Broadway is the musical West Side Story which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. He has been the recipient of many honors, including 11 Emmy Awards, one Tony Award, 17 Grammy awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Kennedy Center Honor. Bernstein was also a lifelong humanitarian, supporting civil rights and issues that ranged from HIV/AIDS awareness, advocating for nuclear disarmament, protesting the Vietnam War, and engaging in international initiatives for world peace. Source: https://www.leonardbernstein.com/about
George Catlin (1796–1872): Catlin was born in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania and as a young boy, he was interested in Native American life. In 1828, after encountering a delegation of Plains Indians in Philadelphia on their way to Washington D.C., he became determined to study Native American heritage before it was destroyed. Based on what he observed from his travels, he made more than 500 paintings and sketches. He eventually exhibited his pieces in the United States and Europe and referred to them as the “Indian Gallery.” The Smithsonian Institution acquired the bulk of Catlin’s Collection for ethnographic and historical interest. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Catlin
Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888): Currier was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and was an American lithographer who headed the company Currier & Ives with James Ives. Currier attended public school until 15, when he was apprenticed to the Boston printing firm of William and John Pendleton, the first successful lithographers in the United States. In 1835, Currier started his own lithographic business in which he produced standard lithographic products such as printing music sheets, letterheads, handbills, etc. In 1835, he issued a print illustrating a recent fire in New York, calling it the “Ruins of the Merchant’s Exchange N.Y. after the Destructive Conflagration of Decbr 16 & 17, 1835.” His print was published in the New York Sun, and was an early example of illustrated news. Currier & Ives are best known for their creation of popular art prints that portrayed Christmas scenes and landscapes but also produced political cartoons, historical scenes, and current events. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Currier
James Merritt Ives (1824–1895): Ives was born in New York City and was a self-made artist. Ives’ talent as an artist as well as his business skills gave him valuable insight into what the public wanted, helping to grow the company. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Merritt_Ives
Bashar Barakah Jackson (Pop Smoke) (1999-2020): Jackson, was born in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and was an American rapper and songwriter. He recorded his first track, “Mpr (Panic Part 3),” in 2018. His rap name is a combination of Poppa, a name given to him by his grandmother, and Smocco Guwop, a nickname from childhood friends. In 2019, he released his breakout single, “Welcome to the Party” and his debut mixtape “Meet the Woo.” In February 2020, Pop Smoke was shot during a home invasion in Los Angeles. Four men broke in around 4:30 A.M. and shot him twice in the chest and he was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Originally, the LAPD thought Pop Smoke’s death was gang-related as he had ties to the Crips, but further evidence showed that his death was a consequence of a home robbery gone wrong. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_Smoke
Eastman Johnson (1824-1906): Johnson was born in Lovell, Maine and was an American painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He was best known for his paintings of scenes from everyday life, called genre painting, and was considered the American Rembrandt of his time. His attention to detail made his work incredibly realistic. He established a studio in New York City with his ‘Negro Life in the South’, popularly called ‘Old Kentucky Home,’ an exhibit at the National Academy of Design. The painting alludes to plantation life and shows a range of domestic activities that took place in the slave quarters of a plantation. Another significant painting is ‘A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves’, painted in 1862, based on his observations during the Civil War Battle of Manassas. It depicts a slave family riding to freedom and by placing the former slaves squarely in the center of the work, Johnson alludes to the idea that the people are acting as agents of their own destiny. Source:
James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938): Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida and received a bachelor’s degree from the college at Atlanta University. After graduating, he became the principal of Stanton School and began studying law. He was admitted to the Florida Bar thereafter. In 1901, Johnson decided he also wanted to pursue a career in writing and moved to New York City with his brother where they wrote songs for musicals on Broadway. Johnson became involved in politics and eventually accepted the position of field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As executive secretary, he brought attention to racism, lynching, and segregation. Johnson’s best known work is the lyric to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is considered the unofficial Black national anthem.Source: https://www.naacp.org/naacp-history-james-weldon-johnson/
Business Leaders/ Newspaper Publishers.
James Gordon Bennett, Sr. (1795-1872): Bennett was born in Scotland, immigrated to Canada, and then moved to the United States. Starting in 1823, Bennett worked as a freelance writer and assistant editor of the New York Courier and Enquier. Bennett created the New York Herald and shocked readers with the front-page coverage of sensational crimes. Bennett pioneered a cash-in-advance policy for advertisers, using the latest technology, and using woodcuts to illustrate articles. During the Civil War, Bennett and the Herald used racist language in articles opposing the war and attacked President Abraham Lincoln for trying to keep the Union together. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Gordon-Bennett-American-editor-1795-1872
Charles Feltman (1841-1910): Feltman was a German-American restaurateur who is credited with being the inventor of the hot dog. In 1867, Feltman began to sell food to beachgoers at Coney Island in Brooklyn and came up with the idea of putting a sausage on a roll so he could avoid having to provide silverware and plates to his customers. They were Coney Island Red Hots. In 1916, a Feltman employee named Nathan Handwerker left to start his own business a few blocks away from Feltman’s on Surf Avenue. Nathan’s Famous soon became a larger attraction than his former employer’s restaurant and became a Coney Island icon. Source: https://www.coneyislandhistory.org/hall-of-fame/charles-feltman
William Delbert Gann (1878–1955): William Delbert Gann was born in Lufkin, Texas where he dropped out of school to work on his family’s cotton farm. Gann used the Bible to learn to read, and in so doing, learned about commodities trading in cotton warehouses. Gann eventually moved to New York City where he worked on Wall Street and opened his own brokerage firm, known as W.D. Gann & Company, becoming one of the most successful stock and commodity traders in the world. Source: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/091615/mysterious-life-trading-legend-wd-gann.asp
Horace Greeley (1811-1872): Greeley was born in Amherst, New Hampshire where he became a printer’s apprentice before moving to New York City. In 1834, Greeley founded his first newspaper, The New-Yorker, which was aligned with the Whig Party (he would print ads and help influence people to vote for candidates of this party). Greeley was an active Whig, working with New York Governor William H. Seward and President William Henry Harrison on their campaigns. He started The New-York Tribune in 1841, where he championed rights for workers and women and the abolition of slavery. Greeley criticized President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War for not actively opposing slavery. Greeley ran unsuccessfully for President in 1872 as a Liberal Republican. Interestingly, Greeley’s wife died in October 1872, a few weeks before the election and Greeley died a few weeks later on November 29. If he had won the election, this would be the first time a president-elect died before being elected by the Electoral College. Source: https://www.green-wood.com/horace-greeley/
Morris Ketchum Jesup (1830-1908): Jesup a banker and philanthropist. He moved to New York City in 1842 where he established MK Jesup & Company and eventually was President of the New York Chamber of Commerce and of the Museum of Natural History. He worked to improve social conditions in New York for poor immigrants from Europe and Russia as a founder of the Five Points House of Industry, a settlement house that taught immigrants skills needed to live in the United States. In 1905, Jesup was knighted by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia for his philanthropic work aiding immigrants from Russia. Source: https://www.lindahall.org/morris-ketchum-jesup/
Pierre Lorillard IV (1833-1901): Lorillard’s great-grandfather founded P. Lorillard and Company which processed tobacco, cigars, and snuff. Lorillard established Tuxedo Park, New York as an elite hunting and fishing destination, which attracted the world’s rich and famous. He helped pioneer the formal dresswear for men, the tuxedo. Source: https://www.alsformalwear.com/history-of-the-tuxedo/
Henry Jarvis Raymond (1820-1869): Raymond worked for numerous newspapers including the New York Tribune and Courier and Enquirer as a journalist and associate editor and then started The New York Times, in 1851. Raymond was a member of the New York Assembly as a member of the Whig Party (and was elected lieutenant governor (1855-1856). He was a strong supporter of President Lincoln and served one term in the House of Representatives from 1865 to 1867. After Raymond retired from Congress, he attacked the corrupt “Tweed Ring” and advocated for tariff reductions and civil service reform. Source:
Sahadi Family: The Sahadi family imigrated from Lebanon to “Little Syria” in Manhattan where they launched Sahadi Importing to introduce Middle Eastern goods in the United States. On Ellis Island, an exhibition features a photograph of Abrahim Sahadi with A. Sahadi & Co. tins and an ordering book from the 1920s. In the 1940s the Sahadi’s store relocated to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue where it remains.
Frederick August Otto Schwarz (1836–1911): Schwarz was born in Westphalia, Germany where he served an apprenticeship for one of the city’s leading merchants. At the age of twenty, he immigrated to the United States and initially settled in Baltimore. , receiving business training that benefited him when he moved to the United States at 20 years old. In New York City he opened the Schwarz toy bazaar. The F.A.O. Schwarz catalog was published in 1876 and it became the store’s staple for merchandising. Schwarz was the first merchant to utilize a live dressed-up Santa Claus to promote seasonal sales. In the movie, Big, there is an iconic moment where two characters play “Chopsticks” with the floor keyboard in the flagship F.A.O. Schwarz toy store in Manhattan. Source: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/economics-magazines/schwarz-frederick-august-otto
Henry Steinway (1797–1871): Henry Steinway (Heinrich Steinweg) was born on February 15, 1871 in Braunschweig, Germany. In the first 30 years of his life, Steinweg spent them in Germany making pianos in his own home. In June of 1849, his son, Carl, became the first family member to emigrate to America. A few months later, Heinrich prepared him and his family to follow suit. The Steinweg family eventually settled into a home in New York City, luckily, in an area where there were many piano manufacturers. In 1856, the Steinway & Sons partnership agreement was signed and the name Steinway was used instead of Steinweg for business purposes. At the American Institute Fair in 1855, a Steinway piano was honored the best in the show and was awarded the first place gold medal. This accolade confirmed the quality of the instruments produced by their family. They used the name “Gold Medal Pianos” to advertise their work. The business story of the Steinway piano business is exceptional. Henry never learned how to speak English and did not become an American citizen until 1863. Source:
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933): Louis Comfort Tiffany is known as one of America’s acclaimed artists. He was a painter, craftsman, philanthropist, decorator, and designer. He was internationally recognized as one the greatest forces of the Art Nouveau style, which made significant contributions to the art of glassmaking. Starting his career as a painter, he worked under the influence of artists such as George Inness and Samuel Colman. In the late 1870’s, Tiffany began to acquire an interest for decorative arts and interiors as well. Later on, both Tiffany and Colman worked together to design furnishings and interiors for the New York mansion, which was completed in 1892. Under various clients, Tiffany designed both private interiors and public spaces. In the 1890’s, Tiffany built a glasshouse in Corona, Queens, New York. His work with leaded-glass brought him great recognition. Aside from his various artistic nature, Tiffany was knowledgeable about jewelry trends through art periodicals, international expositions, and his father’s firm, Tiffany & Co. Upon his father’s death in 1902, he was appointed art director. His earliest jewelry designs were exhibited at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Enamels, Favrile glass vessels, and pottery gained attention and favorable press by various art critics during this time period. Between 1902 and 1905, Tiffany built his Long Island country home in Cold Spring Harbor in Oyster Bay, New York. Evidently, his work continues to influence Tiffany & Co. designs. Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tiff/hd_tiff.htm
Barry Commoner (1917–2012): Barry Commoner, born on May 28, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY, was an American cellular biologist, activist. and environmentalist. He received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Columbia University in 1937 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in cellular biology from Harvard University in 1938 and 1941. In 1947, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and joined the faculty of Washington University in St Louis where he worked as a professor of plant physiology for 34 years. In the 1950s, Commoner warned of the environmental threats posed by modern technology (i.e.: nuclear weapons, use of pesticides, and ineffective waste management). Commoner was known for his opposition to nuclear weapons testing and joined a team which conducted the Baby Tooth Survey, which found Strontium 90 in children’s teeth as a direct result of nuclear fallout. This study directly contributed to the adoption of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Commoner’s publications were influential in the Nixon administration’s decision to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air Act. In February 1970, TIME magazine named Commoner the “Paul Revere of ecology.” Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/us/barry-commoner-dies-at-95.html
Peter Cooper (1791-1883): Peter Cooper was born on February 12, 1791 in New York City. Cooper was an American inventor, manufacturer, and philanthropist. He built the “Tom Thumb” locomotive, a new system for towing canal boats, and founded The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
Eunice Newton Foote (1819-1888): Foote was an American scientist and women’s rights activist. She pioneered climate science and in 1856, theorized that changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature. Her groundbreaking discovery was overlooked and eventually forgotten by the scientific community. Foote made the discovery by conducting a series of experiments that demonstrated the interactions of the sun’s rays on different gases. She concluded that carbon dioxide trapped the most heat of all the gases she tested and connected the dots between carbon dioxide and global warming. Her paper was later published in the American Journal of Science and Arts. Foote was a prominent feminist and a signer of the Declaration of Sentiments at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. She was a neighbor and friend of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and was one of the five women who prepared the proceedings of the convention for publication. old. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/21/obituaries/eunice-foote-overlooked.html
Elias Howe (1819-1867): Elias Howe was born on July 9, 1819 in Spencer Massachusetts. He worked in a textile factory in Lowell until it closed in 1837 and then for a master mechanic where he had the idea for the sewing machine. In September 1846, he was awarded a United States patent for his invention. In 1851, Howe received a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure,” now known as the zipper. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Howe
Mary Jacobi (1842-1906): Mary Jacobi was born in 1843 in London, England to American parents. Jacobi studied at the New York College of Pharmacy and later received her M.D. from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1866, Jacobi moved to Paris and supported co-education for men and women. She argued that women’s medical schools could not provide the same training and clinical practice as established universities that were affiliated with large hospitals. Jacobi published over 120 scientific articles and nine books. Source: https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_163.html
Samuel Morse (1791- 1872): Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts and attended Yale College where he received instruction in religious philosophy, mathematics, the science of horses, and electricity. After graduating, he traveled to England to study art and gained a reputation as a portrait painter. When he returned to the United States, he helped found the National Academy of Design in New York City. While traveling by ship from Europe to the United States, Morse conceived the idea for an electric telegraph. Morse was an active opponent of immigration to the United States and a leading defender of slavery. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Morse
DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828): DeWitt Clinton was born on March 2, 1769 in Little Britain, New York. Clinton was the nephew of Governor George Clinton. He served as a United State Senator (1798-1802), Mayor of New York City (1803-15), Lieutenant Governor (1811-13), and Governor (1817-1823 and 1825-1828). In 1812, he ran for president against James Madison and lost. As mayor, Clinton advocated for free and widespread education. In 1811, Clinton proposed a canal to link the Hudson River with Lake Erie. In April 1816, the legislature agreed to finance the canal, which was completed in 1825. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/DeWitt-Clinton-American-politician
William Livingston (1723-1790): William Livingston was born in Albany, New York, and studied law at Yale College before moving to New York City. He represented New Jersey in the First and Second Continental Congress, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and was the first man elected Governor of New Jersey. Livingston, New Jersey, is named in his honor—he was reelected 14 times and was responsible for the gradual emancipation laws of New Jersey. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Livingston
Alice Roosevelt (1861-1884): Alice (Lee) Roosevelt was an American socialite and the first wife of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1883, Alice became pregnant and gave birth to the couple’s daughter. Less than two days later, she died from kidney failure caused by Bright’s disease. Source:
Henry Rutgers (1745-1830): Henry Rutgers was born in New York City. After graduating from King’s College (now Columbia University), he became a supporter of independence. During the Battle of White Plains, Rutgers served as captain of the American forces and then later on as a colonel for the New York militia. Rutgers committed his fortune to philanthropy, donating land for the use of schools, churches, and charities. He donated to Queen’s College in New Brunswick, New Jersey which was renamed Rutgers College. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Rutgers
Henry Chadwick (1824-1908): English-born Chadwick was a sportswriter, baseball statistician and historian. He edited the first baseball guide and is sometimes called the “Father of Baseball.” In 1859, while working with the Brooklyn Excelsior club, Chadwick created the first modern box score. He included runs, hits, put outs, assists and errors the letter ‘K’ for strikeouts. He is a member of the baseball Hall of Fame. Source: https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/chadwick-henry
Charles Ebbets (1859–1925): Ebbets was born and raised in New York City. He sold team tickets, score cards, and peanuts at the Brooklyn Baseball Association stadium in Washington Park on 5th Avenue and 3rd Street. Ebbets bought lots in the Flatbush area and opened Ebbets Field at the intersection of Empire Boulevard and Bedford Avenue. Ebbets received credit for many baseball innovations including the rain check, uniform numbers, and the way that teams should draft in inverse order based on their final standings. Source: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/charlie-ebbets/
Albert Anastasia (1903-1957): Anastasia arrived in New York City from Italy in 1919. In the 1920s, Anastasia was an executioner for Giuseppe Masseria’s Brooklyn gang. Anastasia was charged with a series of murders, but in each case witnesses either disappeared or refused to testify. In the late 1930s, he became the leader of Murder Inc., earning Anastasia the nicknames “Mad Hatter” and the “Lord High Executioner.” In 1942, Anastasia joined the U.S. Army and was granted United States citizenship. In the late 1940s, he became boss of the Gambino Family (one of the Five Families of organized crime in New York City). Anastasia was murdered in 1957 in a New York City barber shop by rival mobsters. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Albert-Anastasia
Jane Augusta Funk Blankman (1823–1860): Better known as Fanny White, she was one of the most successful prostitutes and wealthiest women in pre-Civil War New York City. She managed a brothel where her clientele included some of the richest men in New York City. In 1859, she married Edmon Blankman, a well-known criminal attorney. An initial autopsy revealed that Jane died as a result of a stroke that caused bleeding on her brain, however, rumors circulated that her husband poisoned her to inherit her wealth. Source: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/did-anyone-cry—when-jane-blankman-died.156198/
Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo (1929–1972): Gallo was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn. His father Umberto was a bootlegger during Prohibition Gallo became an enforcer and a hit-man for the Profaci family and in 1957, Gallo and his crew murdered Albert Anastasia (boss of the Gambino family). After a prison term Gallo set up his own gang. In a gangland war, he was murdered by a gunman murdered for the Profaci-Colombo family. Source: https://mafia.wikia.org/wiki/Joey_Gallo
Carmine Persico (1933–2019): Persico was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he was a leader of the Garfield Boys gangs. In the 1950s, Persico was recruited by the Profaci family and he participated in the murder of Albert Anastasia and was a rival of Joey Gallo. Gallo twice tried to murder Persico by bombing his car and shooting him, however Persico survived both attempts. In 1968, Persico was convicted on federal hijacking charges and was sent to prison for eight years. He was later sentenced to 139 years in prison. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmine_Persico
William “Bill the Butcher” Poole (1821-1855): Poole was born in New Jersey, but his family moved to New York City in 1832 where his father opened a butcher shop. Poole was a member of volunteer Fire Engine Company #34, where he started the Washington Street Gang, later known as the Bowery Boys. The Bowery Boys were nativists and their main rivals were the Dead Rabbits, an Irish gang. Poole was also active in the anti-immigrant Know Nothings political movement. He was immortalized in the movie Gangs of New York. Source: https://www.historicmysteries.com/bill-the-butcher/
James Marion Sims (1813-1883): Sims was born in South Carolina and started his medical career in Montgomery, Alabama before moving to New York City. He was known as the father of modern gynecology. His reputation has changed because he developed pioneering tools and surgical techniques by experimenting without antiseptics or anesthesia on enslaved black women. Because of this, a statue of Sims was removed from New York’s Central Park in 2018 and it is now in storage at Greenwood cemetery. Source: https://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves
Lynne Stewart (1939–2017): Stewart was was a defense attorney known for representing economically disadvantaged clients and controversial defendants. Her most famous client was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman who was found guilty of leading the 1993 plot to blow up New York City landmarks including the World Trade Center. Rahman was sentenced to a life term in solitary confinement and Stewart, as his lawyer, was one of the few people authorized to visit him. In 2005, Stewart was convicted of smuggling messages between Rahman and his followers. She was disbarred and sent to prison. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/nyregion/lynne-stewart-dead-radical-leftist-lawyer.html
William Maegar “Boss” Tweed (1823-1878): Tweed was born in New York City. In 1851, on his second try, he won the race for city alderman and then served in the House of Representatives from 1853 to 1855. He was elected to New York City’s Board of Supervisors in 1858. Tweed used this position to build the “Tweed Ring,” a political network of corruption. In 1863, Tweed was chosen to be the head of Tammany Hall’s general committee and began placing friends into influential positions. One of the grandest schemes that the Tweed Ring was involved in was the construction and furnishing of New York City’s courthouse. At a time where the land for Central Park cost New York City $5 million and St. Patrick’s Cathedral cost $2 million to build, the Courthouse ended up costing taxpayers $12 million because of inflated bills that provided kickbacks to members of the Tweed Ring. As the result of an anti-corruption campaign by the New York Times and cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly, Tweed was arrested in 1871 and the Tweed Ring was dismantled. Tweed was convicted on 204 counts but escaped from custody and fled to Spain where he was captured by Spanish officials that recognized him from Nast cartoons. Source: https://www.green-wood.com/william-magear-boss-tweed/
The Cypress Hills Cemetery on Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn near the Queens border was founded in November 1848. It is known as the “first cemetery in Greater New York to be organized under a law that is internationally recognized as ‘America’s contribution to the civilized burial of the dead.’” During the 1800s, many cemeteries were located in churchyards. The founders of Cypress Hills strayed from the common cemetery landscape to “look up unto the hills,” instead of using lowlands. Due to the size and geographic makeup of Cypress Hills Cemetery, it took almost three years of work to cut, clean, and properly landscape the land. As the work was being done, cannonballs and other Revolutionary war artifacts from the August 1776 Battle of Brooklyn were discovered on the grounds. Currently, the cemetery extends over 225 acres. A detailed map of notables is available online at this link.
Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1830-1901): Graham was born to free African-American parents and became a church organist and a teacher at the African Free School in New York City. In 1854, Jennings boarded a streetcar reserved for whites only at the corner of Pearl Street and Chatham Street. The conductor ordered to get off, she refused, and was forcibly removed by the conductor and police officer. Following the incident, Jennings wrote a letter, which was published in the New York Tribune, describing the events. Her letter received national attention and motivated the African-American community to start a movement to end racial discrimination on streetcars in New York City. On her behalf, Jennings’ father filed a lawsuit against the conductor. They were represented by future U.S. President Chester A. Arthur. The court ruled in their favor, awarding damages of $225. Source:
Charlotte E. Ray (1850-1911): Ray was born on January 13, 1850, in New York, New York. As a student at the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., she received a law degree in 1872. She was the first woman admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and the first Black woman to become a certified lawyer in the United States. Ray attempted to open a law office in Washington D.C., however, racial prejudices proved too strong and she couldn’t obtain enough legal business to maintain a steady, active practice. She returned to New York City where she taught in public schools. Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charlotte-E-Ray
Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938): Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and at a very young age, he experienced racism when his grade school teacher told him that black culture lacked any prominent individuals or noteworthy history. This comment disturbed Schomburg and ultimately sparked his lifelong dedication to debunking this claim. At the age of 17, he migrated to New York where he was active in movements for Cuban and Puerto Rican independence and co-founded a political club known as Las Dos Antillas. For the rest of his life, he collected historical documents such as books, prints, pamphlets, and articles produced by Africans in the Americas and Europe. He was a founder of the Negro Society for Historical Research and served as the leader of the American Negro Academy. He also wrote articles on the history of black culture for “The Crisis,” “Opportunity,” “Negro World” and others. In 1926, Schomburg sold his collection to the New York Public Library. Source:
James McCune Smith (1813-1865): Smith was born into slavery on April 18, 1813 in New York City and set free on July 4, 1827 by the Emancipation Act of New York. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree, graduating at the top in his class from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He applied to Columbia University and Geneva Medical College but was denied due to racial discrimination. When Smith returned to New York in 1837, he opened a practice in Manhattan in general surgery, treating both Black and white patients and operated the first Black-owned pharmacy in the U.S. He was also the first Black to publish in American medical journals. Smith was a prominent abolitionist and wrote essays and gave lectures refuting racist misconceptions about race and intelligence. After the New York Draft Riots in 1863, in which white rioters attacked Blacks throughout the city, Smith moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Source: https://www.nyhistory.org/web/africanfreeschool/bios/james-mccune-smith.html
James “Eubie” Blake (1883-1983): Blake, an American pianist, lyricist, and composer of jazz music, was born on February 7, 1887 in Baltimore, MD. He was one of the most important figures in early-20th century African American music, particularly ragtime and early jazz music and culture. Blake began playing piano professionally when he was 16 years old and wrote his first composition, the Charleston Rag, around the same time. His career took off in 1915 when he met his long-time collaborator Noble Sissle and together they wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans. The show was a hit, running for 504 performances with 3 years of national tours. By 1975, Blake had received honorary doctorates from Rutgers, the University of Maryland, the New England Conservatory, Morgan State University, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College and Dartmouth and in 1981, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eubie_Blake; https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038834/
Junius B. Stearns (1810-1885): Stearns is most well-known for his five-part painting series of George Washington. Washington as a Statesman depicts Washington addressing the Constitutional Convention and was used on a U.S. Postage Stamp in 1937. Source: https://eazel.net/artists/68
Mary Jane “Mae” West (1893-1980): Her mother was an immigrant from Germany and her father was the Brooklyn prizefighter “Battlin’ Jack” West. At the age of five, Mae made her first stage appearance at a church gathering. Not long after, Mae was performing at amateur night at local burlesque theaters as “Baby May.” At the age of 14, West began performing professionally in vaudeville, impersonating adult vaudeville and burlesque performers. In 1926, West wrote, produced, directed, and starred the Broadway play “Sex,” which both got her arrested and made her known around the world. Ten years later, Hollywood noticed West’s talent she stared in many films. Source: https://www.biography.com/actor/mae-west
James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett (1866-1933): Corbett was an American professional boxer and a World Heavyweight Champion. He is the only person who ever defeated John Sullivan in the World HeavyWeight Championship in 1892. “Gentleman Jim” is considered the “Father of Modern Boxing.” Source: https://www.thefightcity.com/fight-city-legends-gentleman-jim-boxing/
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972): Robinson was born in Georgia and attended college in California where he played basketball, football, baseball, and ran track. During World War II, Robinson left college to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he moved up to second lieutenant in two years, but then was court-martialed when he challenged incidents of racial discrimination. Starting in 1945, Robinson played professional baseball in the Negro League. Robinson later signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. As a rookie, Robinson led the National League in stolen bases and was chosen Rookie of the Year. In 1949, he won the National League batting championship with a .342 average and was voted Most Valuable Player. His career batting average was .311 and he was the first African-American elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired his number 42. Source: https://www.jackierobinson.com/
Margaretta and Catherine Fox (1833–1893; 1837–1892): The Fox sisters were American spiritualists and performers who would pass messages to each other by cracking their toes during a seance and claimed they could talk to the dead. The Fox sisters were eventually exposed as fakes and were forced to admit their act was all fraud. Source: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/11/04/in-the-joints-of-their-toes/
Sense of Origins: A Study of New York’s Young Italian Americans
by Rosemary Serra, translated by Scott R. Kapuscinski
In Sense of Origins, Rosemary Serra explores the lives of a significant group of self-identified young Italian Americans residing in New York City and its surrounding areas. The book presents and examines the results of a survey she conducted of their values, family relationships, prejudices and stereotypes, affiliations, attitudes and behaviors, and future perspectives of Italian American culture. The core of the study focuses on self-identification with Italian cultural heritage and analyzes it according to five aspects—physical, personality, cultural, psychological, and emotional/affective. The data provides insights into today’s young Italian Americans and the ways their perception of reality in everyday interactions is affected by their heritage, while shedding light on the value and symbolic references that come with an Italian heritage. Through her rendering of relevant facets that emerge from the study, Serra constructs interpretative models useful for outlining the physiognomy and characterization of second, third, fourth, and fifth generations of Italian Americans. In the current climate, questions of ethnicity and migrant identity around the world make Sense of Origins useful not only to the Italian American community but also to the descendants of the innumerable present-day migrants who find themselves living in countries different from those of their ancestors. The book will resonate in future explorations of ethnic identity in the United States. Rosemary Serra is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Trieste, Italy. Scott R. Kapuscinski teaches English at Queens College, City University of New York.
Albany High School is partnering with the Underground Railroad Education Center to teach students about social justice through the lens of history. Students in the school’s Young Abolitionists Leadership Institute meet once a week after school to explore the legacy of the slave-owning Revolutionary War general, Philip Schuyler and examine the public debate over statues and other commemorations. Schuyler was also Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law. A statue of Schuyler in front of Albany City Hall has stoked controversy and discussion and the city administration has announced it will be moved. The students are compiling a report that city leaders will consider when deciding what to do with the statue.
The school day had wrapped up less than a half hour before, but Franz Gopaulsing and his peers were only getting started on their discussion about one of the more well-known and, now, controversial figures in Albany history. “Some were servants, but it was mostly enslaved people that did most of the work,” Gopaulsing told the group about his visit to the historic Schuyler Mansion over the summer. “They are kind of shown as heroes and stuff, but when you actually go in the mansion and take the tour, you see that they actually had a lot of slaves.”
The sophomore is a member of Albany High School’s Young Abolitionists Leadership Institute, which is discussing and debating the legacy of Philip Schuyler during their weekly after-school sessions this fall. “It changed my view on him because I thought, if this guy got a statue, he must’ve been someone who was perfect, he never did something bad in his life,” Gopaulsing said.
More specifically, the students are exploring what to do with the statue of Schuyler that has stood in front of City Hall for decades. It became a controversial symbol earlier this year, when it came to light the Revolutionary War general owned and housed slaves at his Albany mansion.
“It wasn’t shocking,” said senior Junique Huggins, who’s been part of the group for the past few years. “I mean, it’s known that back in that time for a white man to have slaves, so it wasn’t something that was shocking to me.”
During their own breakaway discussion, Huggins and sophomore FranZhane Gopaulsing, Franz’s twin sister, agreed getting to discuss the topic more in depth is enlightening.
“It’s interesting to see everybody have different perspectives on the statue, or even Philip Schuyler himself, and to learn more about it,” Huggins said. “I didn’t get taught about Phillip Schuyler in school, so to learn it here was really good,” FranZhane Gopaulsing said.
The program is overseen by Mary Liz Stewart, the co-founder and executive director of the local Underground Railroad Education Center. “This program is intended to create an environment in which teens can learn history that they are not learning in school and look at it from a social justice perspective, relating that history to themselves today,” Stewart said. By digging deeper into local topics like the Schuyler debate, and more global social justice discussions like the death of George Floyd, Stewart says the students are learning how to affect change in their own community. “I want you to think back to the protests that have been going on, especially since George Floyd’s murder,” Stewart said during the group discussion. “Think about what you picked up across the airwaves and in news reports related to statues.” “I became more interested in it after George Floyd’s death because there was a whole protest and everything that sparked up after his death,” FranZhane Gopaulsing said.
The group will eventually write a report that city leaders will consider when deciding what to do with the statue. “It feels kind of cool because it feels like we are being heard and that we are kind of important,” Franz Gopaulsing said. Only a couple weeks into the program, most in the group have yet to make up their mind, but they’re already debating a number of alternatives. “We should have the together hands that would show, like, unity of people of color and other races coming together as one,” Huggins proposed during her discussion with FranZhane Gopaulsing.
Regardless of the outcome, group members say the discussions definitely have them thinking about the issue and their own experiences in a whole new light. “It’s sort of got me thinking about which historical things are celebrated and do they really need to be celebrated?” Franz Gopaulsing said. “It feels good to leave a positive impact and even bring change into the city itself, it actually feels good,” Huggins said.