Screenshot of the map courtesy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission
For roughly 200 years, between 1626 and 1827, New York City was home to more enslaved Africans than almost every other city in the country. But after abolishing slavery nearly 40 years before the nation, the city became a major player of the national abolitionist movement, housing anti-slavery activists and organizations, as well as many stops on the Underground Railroad. Now 400 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived in the United States, the Landmarks Preservation Commission released this week an interactive story map highlighting designated city landmarks tied to the abolitionist movement.
Explore the map
Photo of Harriet Tubman Memorial, “Swing Low,” in Harlem via denisbin on Flickr
Harriet Tubman, the fearless abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad who led scores of slaves to freedom in some 13 expeditions, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, and dedicated herself to Women’s Suffrage later in life, was known as “Moses” in her own time, and is revered in our time as an extraordinary trailblazer. Her status as a groundbreaking African American woman also extends to the now-contentious realm of public statuary and historical commemoration, since Tubman was the first African American woman to be depicted in public sculpture in New York City.
Tubman’s statue, also known as “Swing Low,” was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, and designed by the African-American artist Alison Saar. It was dedicated in 2008 at Harlem’s Harriet Tubman Triangle on 122nd Street. In her memorial sculpture, Saar chose to depict Tubman “not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as a train itself, an unstoppable locomotive that worked towards improving the lives of slaves for most of her long life.” She told the Parks Department, “I wanted not merely to speak of her courage or illustrate her commitment, but to honor her compassion.”
Learn all about this statue
Photo of Harriet Tubman statue in Harlem via denisbin on Flickr
For over 200 years, and leading up to the Civil War, most of New York City favored slavery because the region’s cotton and sugar industries depended on slave labor. During the colonial era, 41 percent of NYC’s households had slaves, compared to just six percent in Philadelphia and two percent in Boston. Eventually, after the state abolished slavery in 1827, the city became a hotbed of anti-slavery activism and a critical participant of the Underground Railroad, the network of secret churches, safe houses and tunnels that helped fugitive slaves from the south reach freedom. While some of these Underground Railroad sites no longer exist or have relocated, a few of the original structures can be visited today, including Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church and the Staten Island home of staunch abolitionist Dr. Samuel Mackenzie Elliott. Ahead, travel along the Underground Railroad with 15 known stops in New York City.
See the stops
This is one of the select few carriage homes that line the charming Cobble Hill Park, and now it’s up for grabs asking $4.4 million. What you’re getting is a house full of history: constructed in the 1840s through 1860, the carriage houses on this block served as homes for both the servants and horses of the wealthy homeowners along nearby Warren and Clinton streets. 20 Verandah, in particular, later served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Of course, the interior is lovely too, with original details like bricks, ceiling beams and wood-burning fireplaces maintained within the four-bedroom, two-family home.
Get a look around
Over the weekend, 6sqft brought you a listing for a charmingly historic upstate house that was once an Underground Railroad safe house. With its location on sprawling land in a small town, this makes sense, but even houses in bustling New York City played a role in the historic story. There was the 1830s historic mansion at 45 Grove Street, and there’s this 1847 West Village townhouse at 95 Barrow Street.
The Post reports that the home, now on the rental market for $21,900 a month, was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The three-bedroom residence retains its historic details in the form of exposed brick walls galore, wooden beamed ceilings, and original wide-plank pine floors. But it’s also recently undergone a gut renovation that added modern amenities such as radiant heat flooring (and sidewalk!), a chic kitchen, and lots of custom built-ins.
Check it out
Built in 1795 in a “central chimney, post and Beam Colonial style,” this home in the Catskills village of Andes was originally used as a tavern. It then had lives as a farmhouse, meeting house during the Anti-Rent War (a tenants’ revolt in the early 19th century), and, most impressively, a safe house for the Underground Railroad (h/t CIRCA). In its most recent incarnation, it’s served as a private home, with the current owners preserving its historic integrity, including five fireplaces, beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, and .62 acres of conservation land. They’ve now listed the property for $350,000. Check it all out