The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War

James Oakes
Edna Greene Medford
Thu, June 5th, 2014 | 6:30 pm

Please note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Harold Holzer is no longer able to participate in this program.



Many pre-Civil War antislavery proponents advocated for peaceful abolition: if slave states were surrounded by free states, mass numbers of slaves would be compelled to escape, the Southern economy would be undermined, and voluntary state abolition would be imminent.

Macy's Sunday Story Time: Underground Railroad

Sun, September 15th, 2013 | 11:30 am

Recommended for children ages 3–7. 

Unspoken by Henry Cole

When a young girl finds an escaped slave in her family’s barn, she must make a difficult choice. Examine this wordless story closely in order to discover what she decides.

From the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, through fiction and through fact, hear tales of NYC and the people who made it great.

Support for the Macy's Sunday Story Hour provided by the Macy's Foundation.


Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877

Brenda Wineapple
Wed, August 7th, 2013 | 7:00 pm


In collaboration with the New-York Historical Society and Oxford University Press, the Bryant Park Reading Room presents a series of free lectures to stimulate your mind on popular topics including politics, biography, Civil War history, and more.

Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man

Walter Stahr
Louis P. Masur (moderator)
Tue, March 19th, 2013 | 6:30 pm

Note: This event is sold out



William Henry Seward was one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century: progressive governor of New York, outspoken federal senator, secretary of state during the Civil War and its aftermath, and a target of the assassins who killed Lincoln. Join us for an illuminating conversation about a complex and pivotal figure, Lincoln’s closest friend and adviser, and an early architect of America’s empire.

The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara

Jan 18 2013 - May 5 2013

Since the 1970s Camilo Vergara has been traveling across the United States photographing and thus documenting hand-painted murals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they appeared on the walls of establishments such as car repair shops, barbershops, and fast food restaurants in city streets and alley ways. The folk art portraits have expressed how the inner-city residents saw the slain civil rights leader—at times a statesman, a hero, a visionary, or a martyr. Vergara also discovered that these images were often based on iconic photographs of Dr. King but that, depending upon the neighborhood where they were created, the portraits could take on the likeness of Latinos, Native Americans, or Asians.

Camilo José Vergara , Untitled, 2009, Frederick Douglass at West 154 th Street, Harlem, New York.  Digital c-print. Collection of the artist.

Vergara remarked about his work that “most murals and street portraits of Dr. King are ephemeral. Paint fades, businesses change hands and neighborhood demographics shift. Gradually, images reflecting the culture and values of poor communities are lost….Often, my photographs are the only lasting record of these public works of art.” This exhibition offers the opportunity to study the manner in which Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Thirteenth Amendment

Feb 1 2012 - Apr 30 2012

In honor of Black History Month and Abraham Lincoln's birthday, the New-York Historical Society is proud to display a rare handwritten copy of the Thirteenth Amendment—signed by Lincoln himself—in our Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History.  The document, which was recently acquired by David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group, is on loan to the New-York Historical Society through April 1.

Abraham Lincoln. Manuscript Document Signed (“Abraham Lincoln”) as President, with his Autograph Endorsement (“Approved. February 1, 1865.”) Washington, DC, ca. February 1, 1865. Co-signed by Hannibal Hamlin as Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate, Schuyler Colfax as Speaker of the House, and John W. Forney as Secretary of the Senate. 1 p., 15 1/16 x 20 in., on lined vellum with ruled borders.

One of about thirteen manuscripts Lincoln signed in addition to the original, this copy belonged to Schuyler Colfax, House Speaker in 1863 and later Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant. According to Seth Kaller, president of Seth Kaller, Inc., who acquired the document for Mr. Rubenstein in a private transaction, and arranged its loan to New-York Historical, “this is the one that is directly traceable to a leader instrumental in the amendment’s passage. It has not been displayed in New York for more than forty years."

Negro Life at the South

Negro Life at the South
Oil on linen
Credit Line 
New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection
Object Number 
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

American and Haitian Revolutions and the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade

David Brion Davis
Peter P. Hinks
Richard J. M. Blackett
David W. Blight (moderator)
Thu, November 17th, 2011 | 6:30 pm

Event details

The late 18th and early 19th centuries were a time of upheaval and revolution. In conjunction with the new exhibition, Revolution!, historians examine the tumultuous 30-year period which saw the American and Haitian Revolutions and the end of the transatlantic slave trade to the U.S. and the British colonies. How were these events related and what forces combined to effect so much social change in such a short span?

American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

David W. Blight
Drew Gilpin Faust (moderator)
Thu, November 3rd, 2011 | 7:30 pm

Event details

This program transports us to the 1963 centennial celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to explore how Americans made sense of the suffering, loss and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. David W. Blight and Drew Gilpin Faust discuss how four of America’s most incisive writers—including Robert Penn Warren, a white southerner who recanted his support for segregation, and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist—explored the gulf between remembrance and reality.

Examination Days: The New York African Free School Collection

In 1787, at a time when slavery was crucial to the prosperity and expansion of New York, the New York African Free School was created by the New York Manumission Society, a group dedicated to advocating for African-Americans. The school's explicit mission was to educate black children to take their place as equals to white American citizens.

It began as a single-room schoolhouse with about 40 students, the majority of whom were the children of slaves, and by the time it was absorbed into the New York City public school system in 1835, it had educated thousands of children, a number of whom went on to become well known in the United States and Europe. The New-York Historical Society’s New York African Free School Collection preserves a rich selection of student work and community commentary about the school.

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