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Slavery in New York

October 07, 2005 - March 26, 2006

The New-York Historical Society launched a two-year initiative on slavery and New York. The first phase opened on October 7, 2005, with the landmark exhibition Slavery in New York.

Anthony Meucci, Pierre Toussaint (ca. 1766–1853), ca. 1825. Watercolor on ivory. The New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miss Georgina Schuyler, 1920.4

Through two major exhibitions, public programs, walking tours, educational materials and programs for school, college and adult learners, the New-York Historical Society is exploring the vital role that slave trading, the labor of enslaved people, and important commerce with slave societies in the 19th century played in making New York, the wealthiest city in the world. The Historical Society is working collaboratively with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library in developing these exhibitions, and in planning related educational and public programs.

The story of New York's rootedness in the enslavement of Africans is largely unknown to the general public. For the last 30 years, scholars here and abroad have recovered many fascinating details of the hidden worlds of New York's enslaved people. Among the richest sources for that new scholarship have been the library and museum collections of the New-York Historical Society. Other important materials reside in the New York State Library in Albany, the New York Public Library (especially at the Schomburg Center), the Municipal Archives, and the Gilder Lehrman Collection, now on deposit at the Historical Society. In addition, the archaeological investigations that followed the re-discovery of the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan have given scholars a new window into the lives of the thousands of black New Yorkers who found their final peace in this place.

The time has now come to bring this story to a broader public understanding. The Slavery and New York initiative will transform every New Yorker's understanding of this city, past and present. After the next two years, the public will wonder why this story had never been told before.

The New-York Historical Society exhibition is using substantial technical and artistic talent to make this a compelling and dramatic story. School groups are guided through the exhibition on pathways that connect directly to pre- and post-visit classroom lessons. Public programs carry the historical narrative forward into the lives of our city today. No one who participates leaves unmoved by this encounter of a great city with this grim chord in its history.

Visit the companion website here.

Creative: Tronvig Group