Timeline: African Free School

African American
New York

African Free School

January: Founding of the New York Manumission Society. Founding members included John Jay, George Clinton, Alexander Hamilton, and James Duane.





May 11: The New York Manumission Society recommends the establishment of a school for the education of New York's African American children.


New York prohibits the sale of slaves imported from outside the state. The state also prohibited the purchase of slaves for the purpose of selling them out of state.



November: 56 students are enrolled in the African Free School, under the leadership of Cornelius Davis, a white educator.



A school for colored girls, originally established by the wife of Cornelius Davis, is incorporated into the New York African Free School.


Peter Williams, James Varick, and other African American Methodists establish Zion Chapel on Cross Street, between Orange (Baxter) and Mulberry.



May: Property is selected and purchased for a school building for the African Free School. The lot is located at 65 Cliff Street, in lower Manhattan.



William Pirsson is employed as the school's headmaster. John Teasman and Abigal Nichols are hired as teachers. Two years later, Pirsson leaves as the result of a salary dispute, and John Teasman becomes the school's first African American headmaster.


New York City's yellow fever epidemic forces the closing of the Free School from July to January.




Passage of New York's Gradual Emancipation Law, which freed those children of slaves born after July 4, 1799. (Women would be indentured until the age of 21; men until the age of 28.)




Incorporation of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.




December: In a meeting held at the African Free School, John Teasman and Peter Williams Jr. plan an event to celebrate the coming abolition of the slave trade.



Principal John Teasman introduces the Lancasterian (or monitorial) system of education to the African Free School.


January 1: Abolition of the slave trade in the United States. Peter Williams Jr. publishes a speech celebrating the close of the slave trade, An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade: Delivered in the African Church, in the City of New York.

Establishment of the African Society for Mutual Relief by John Teasman and many former AFS students.





Charles C. Andrews replaces John Teasman as principal of the African Free School. Some observers feel this is in response to Teasman's involvement in the development of independent African American political and social organizations.

November: The opening of an evening school at the African Free School's Cliff Street location.



New York City grants two lots of ground on Williams Street for the erection of a new African Free School building.


The New York State legislature requires black men to present certificates of freedom prior to voting. In 1815 the state legislature institutes a registration system for black voters.




Boyer Masonic Lodge No. 1 founded, comprising many of black New York's most influential leaders.





By order of the legislature of the State of New York an act is established calling for payments from the Common School Fund to the African Free School and other schools in the City of New York.

December 5: A fire destroys the Cliff Street School. While efforts are made to build a new school, students continue to receive their education at other locations.


During the War of 1812, with British ships gathered near New York City, the African Society for Mutual Relief's Committee of Defense organizes parties of African Americans to fortify Brooklyn Heights.





A new African Free School opens on Williams Street, near Duane Street.


American Colonization Society is founded, its mission to relocate blacks to Africa. Many members of the New York Manumission Society supported the work of the American Colonization Society.




New York passes the Gradual Emancipation Law, which sets the end of slavery in New York for July 4, 1827. Children born to enslaved mothers prior to July 4, 1827, could be required to be apprenticed until the age of 21.





School commissioners report that $1,412 in public money has been appropriated for the African Free School, which taught 456 students during the year.



African Free School No. 2 is opened on Mulberry Street, near Grand. To its students and alumni it is simply known as the Mulberry Street School.


New York State Constitutional Convention imposes heightened property restrictions on black voters while removing all property requirements for white men. By 1826 only 16 black men in New York City are eligible to vote.




African Grove Theater opens its new theater on Mercer Street. Ira Aldridge, an alumnus of the African Free School, may have begun his career there.





Six hundred and fifty pupils are present at the annual spring public examination for African Free School students.

September 10: General Lafayette visits the African Free School at Mulberry Street on his tour of America.


African Americans begin purchasing land in the West 80s, which will become Seneca Village.




Slavery in New York is formally ended. John B. Russworm and Samuel Cornish launch the weekly Freedom's Journal.




The founding of the African Dorcas Association, an African American women's society organized to provide clothing and funding for needy students attending the African Free Schools in New York City.





Two hundred sixty-two students are enrolled at African Free School No. 1; 452 students are enrolled at African Free School No. 2.



Principal Charles C. Andrews publishes his History of the African Free School.


A cholera epidemic hits New York City, leading to great loss of life in the mixed-race, working class neighborhood of Five Points.



In response to the demands on the part of the African American community for greater control over the education of their children, declining enrollments, and anger at his support for African colonization, longtime African Free School principal Charles C. Andrews resigns.

The African Free School system experiences a period of rapid expansion, leading to the creation of several new schools throughout the city. Many of these new schools are staffed and led by African American teachers and principals. By summer 1832, total enrollment is 1,439.


October: A mob of 1,500 New Yorkers attempt to disrupt a meeting of the New York Anti-slavery Society. In December, black and white delegates found the American Anti-slavery Society.




July: Mobs attack abolitionists and blacks during five days of rioting, destroying the homes and businesses of many prominent black and white abolitionists in the Five Points area.



The New York Manumission Society ends its support of the African Free School system, which is absorbed into the New York public school system.


New York City African Americans form the New York Vigilance Committee to provide assistance to fugitive slaves and to rescue blacks who have been kidnapped and sold into slavery.




The Colored Orphan Asylum is opened by Mary Murray and Anna Shotwell.




Samuel Cornish and Samuel Bell launch the Colored American newspaper.