A look back in history at a time of great promise and great disappointment for Black Americans who dreamed of and struggled for the promise of community and full citizenship.
SE04 EP08 The 1863 New York Draft Riots and Massacre
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln's government passed a new conscription law requiring certain male citizens to report for military duty if chosen through a lottery. Wealthy men could buy their way out. Black men were not considered citizens and were exempt from the draft. When New York City conducted it's first draft lottery on July 11, 1863, the anger of aggrieved poor white residents had boiled over. By July 13th, a mob of thousands of primarily Irish Catholic rioters directed their anger first, toward military and government buildings before turning on anyone in their way, police and soldiers included. Finally, the mobs turned their sights onto Black men and women, their homes and businesses. The violence continued for three days until about 4,000 federal troops arrived in New York City fresh from the Battle of Gettysburg to quell the ravenous hordes. Estimates of the death toll range from 74 to 1,200. Some experts estimate that dozens of Blacks were killed. 11 Black men are on record as being lynched. Several thousand Black residents were made homeless. Millions of dollars worth of property were destroyed, including an orphanage for African American children. The 1863 New York Draft Riots and Massacre holds the distinction as one of the worst insurrections in U.S. History aside from the Civil War, and certainly the worst riot in New York’s history. Guests in this episode include, Author, Historian and Northwestern University Professor, Leslie Harris.
SE 04 EP 07 WESTCHESTER (THE BRONX)
By 1840 there were nearly 190 African Americans out of more than 4,000 residents in the town of Westchester, located in what is today part of the East Bronx. In 1849, several Black men formed the first Black church in the Bronx, known as the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and the only African burial ground in the borough. The Black community surrounding the church was made up of mostly laborers, farmers, skilled craftspeople and service professionals. Not only did the community of Westchester offer African Americans a bit more safety than Manhattan, but it also offered abolitionists more secluded areas to organize. Once such abolitionist is David Ruggles, one of the most prominent anti-slavery activists and abolitionists of the 19th century. Ruggles also had a presence in Westchester. He was associates with one of its residents named Uriah Copeland who was a founding trustee of theBethel A.M.E. church. Guests in this episode include Author, historian and Professor, Dr. Prathibha Kanakamedala as well as librarian and archivist at The Bronx County Historical Society, Dr. Steven Payne.
SE04 EP06 WEEKSVILLE (BROOKLYN)
The predominantly African American settlement of Weeksville was a beacon of hope at a time in pre-Civil War New York when Blacks had suffered major legislative and legal setbacks, including discriminatory voting laws that stripped most people of African descent of the right to vote. Weeksville was founded in the early 19th century by free African Americans. It provided African Americans and people of African descent, a place to live where they could enjoy community, relative freedom and safety, economic opportunity, a place to worship, where children could learn - and unlike many other places at the time - a place where people of African descent could dare to pursue lofty ideals of prosperity and happiness.Weeksville attracted people from both the North, South and even the Carribean. Guests include: Allen Hillery, a data scientist and lecturer at the The Macaulay Research Assistant Program at The City College of New York; Scott Ruff, Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute; and Jeffrey Hogrefe, Associate Professor of Architecture, Humanities and Media Studies as well as Coordinator of the Architecture Writing Program.
SE04 EP05 NEWTOWN (QUEENS)
Newtown was settled by free African Americans in 1828, after New York state abolished slavery in 1827. It was nearly forgotten to history until, in 2011, a construction crew digging on a site in the present-day Elmhurst community of Queens, New York happened upon an iron coffin that contained the well-preserved remains of a Black woman. Forensic evidence and research proved the woman was the daughter of a prominent Black couple in the free African American community of Newtown in the 19th century. The re-discovery revealed the existence of many more unmarked graves as part of a larger burial site that sparked a major effort to save it. Guests in this episode include, author, historian and Professor, Dr. Prathibha Kanakamedala. She is an Associate Professor of History at Bronx Community College CUNY, a faculty member in the M.A. in Liberal Studies Program, and the inaugural faculty co-ordinator of the Public Scholarship Practice Space housed at the Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center. Her research looks at community-building, race, and citizenship in Brooklyn and New York’s 19th-century free Black communities.
SE 04 EP 04 SANDY GROUND (STATEN ISLAND)
Sandy Ground was settled in 1833 by African-American oystermen fleeing the restrictive industry laws of Maryland. It boasts as the “oldest continuously inhabited free Black settlement in the United States.” Located on the southwestern shore of Staten Island near plentiful oyster beds, Sandy Ground was a once-bustling community supported by farming initially and oystering, beginning in the 1840s. Sandy Ground is also believed to have been a stop along the Underground Railroad.
SE 04 EP 03 SENECA VILLAGE (MANHATTAN)
An exploration of what was once the 19th century settlement known as Seneca Village. Before Central Park was created, the landscape along the Park’s perimeter from West 82nd to West 89th Street was the site of Seneca Village, a community of predominantly African-Americans, many of whom owned property. Over time, other immigrant groups began to settle there, though it remained a predominantly African American settlement. By 1855, the village consisted of approximately 225 residents, made up of roughly two-thirds African-Americans, one-third Irish immigrants, and a small number of individuals of German descent. One of a few African-American enclaves at the time, Seneca Village allowed residents to live away from the more built-up sections of downtown Manhattan and escape the unhealthy conditions and racial discrimination they faced there. By the late 1850’s the city took over the land on which the village sat through eminent domain, and about 1,600 people were displaced. Seneca Village had been all but forgotten until its history was rediscovered in the late 20th century. Guests include archeologists Diana Wall and Nan Rothschild and Bard Graduate Center Professor, Dr. Meredith Linn. Listeners will also hear a previously recorded interview with historian Cynthia Copeland.
Grew up in Archer, Florida which is right outside of Rosewood and where a lot of the people fled to escaping the massacre. Found your podcast doing some research on Rosewood. Since 2018 we have lived to Cookeville, TN, only minutes from Sparta, TN, where the descendant of Fanny Taylor now lives. Wow, the 6 degree of separation there is strong. I about fell over when I heard Sparta, TN. Really love your podcast and looking forward to listening to more black history accounts from you.
Just keeps getting better
This show gets better with every season. I am really enjoying the direction that Nia Clark is taking season 3 beyond the Tulsa Oklahoma Massacre, and on to exposing and exploring racial violence that has existed throughout our country’s history, but is never taught in public institutions.
Remarkable Education while being entertained
Nia Clarke has created a masterful work of art that has invaluable content from scholars and first had witnesses. Can not say enough about this work of art! Excited that Season 3 is here and even more excited that I recommended she do a Season on Wilmington and she ended up following suit coincidently or directly. If you are debating on giving this a listen do yourself a favor and dive in.. But be ready for the ride! The amount of first l hand and second hand accounts are fascinating as well as extremely moving. So happy to have stumbled upon this remarkable piece of education during the pandemic. I will be a fan for life!