In 1787 the New York Manumission Society created the African Free School with the primary goal of educating black children. It began as a single-room schoolhouse with about 40 students, the majority of whom were the children of slaves, and taught them a variety of practical subjects. By the time it was absorbed into the New York City public school system in 1835, it had educated thousands of children, including many who went on to become notable leaders.
With the support of the Russell Sage Foundation, the New-York Historical Society has launched a comprehensive website, showcasing actual examples of students’ work from 1816 through 1826, offering an unparalleled glimpse into the little-known history of African-American life in New York City in the late-18th and early-19th centuries as well as pedagogical techniques used at that time.
The Klingenstein Library of the New-York Historical Society holds among its many resources a substantial collection of manuscript materials documenting American slavery and the slave trade in the Atlantic world. The 14 collections on this website are among the most important of these manuscript collections. They consist of diaries, account books, letter books, ships’ logs, indentures, bills of sale, personal papers and records of institutions. Some of the highlights of these collections include the records of the New York Manumission Society and the African Free School, the diaries and correspondence of English abolitionists Granville Sharp and John Clarkson, the papers of the Boston anti-slavery activist Lysander Spooner, the records of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the draft of Charles Sumner’s famous speech The Anti-Slavery Enterprise and an account book kept by the slave trading firm Bolton, Dickens & Co.
New York City’s only “Civil War Battle” was the 1863 Draft Riot—a convulsive, racially-motivated street fight for the very soul of Manhattan. Experts provide a frank, no-holds-barred account of the sickening excesses of the bloody struggle, its lasting impact on New York politics, the efforts of the mayor, governor, and President Lincoln himself to quell the frightening disturbance, and what it all meant to the future of New York.