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Posts in Antebellum & Civil War
“HORRID BARBARITY:” A Trial Against Slaveholders in New York City

“HORRID BARBARITY:” A Trial Against Slaveholders in New York City

By Kelly A. Ryan

In February 1809, three seamstresses made their way to the special justices of New York City to register a complaint against their employers for abusing the slaves living in their household. They charged Amos and Demiss Broad, a married couple who ran an upholstery and millinery business in the second ward of New York City, with a litany of abuses, including throwing a knife at a three-year-old child. An unlikely trial occurred at the Court of General Sessions by the end of the month, in which the Broads stood trial for assaulting Betty and her three-year-old daughter Sarah. Ultimately, nine witnesses came forward against the Broads, and two of the witnesses who originally agreed to provide evidence for the Broads ended up supporting the prosecution. Though the employees and neighbors of the Broads would be critical to pushing this case forward, Betty’s efforts to get help forced New York City to reckon with the cruelty of slaveholding. The case against the Broads would be a stunning victory for African Americans and the New York Society for the Manumission of Slaves (NYMS), as well as an important moment in generating discussions about the rights of slaves to live unmolested.

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A Forgotten Center of Periodical Publishing: Brooklyn, New York.

A Forgotten Center of Periodical Publishing: Brooklyn, New York.

By Sandra Roff

Publishing periodicals was an exciting step in advancing knowledge and providing information to a news hungry audience. Philadelphia, Boston and New York in the early part of the 19th century established themselves as publishing centers and they all had newspapers, book publishers and an active periodical press. As their respective populations grew so did the demand for periodicals that were cheap, portable and served as an outlet for aspiring authors. These publishing centers as early as the late 18th century published magazines and journals many of which proved to be short lived. By the beginning of the 19th century the readership grew and so did the number of successful magazines.

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Lincoln’s Near Duel-to-the-Death with an Irish Rival

Lincoln’s Near Duel-to-the-Death with an Irish Rival

​By Niall O'Dowd

Abraham Lincoln’s long-standing and colorful history with the children of Ireland played a major role in his political rise, his presidency, and ultimately the Union victory in the Civil War. Much of that history has never been told, such as the near duel between Lincoln and rival — and future Union general — James Shields, reminiscent of Hamilton — ​Burr.

Excerpted from Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln Save the Union with author's permission. ​Copyright © 2018 Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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The Case of Mrs. Brinsmade and Civil War New York

The Case of Mrs. Brinsmade and Civil War New York

By Wyatt Evans

In October 1862, the New York City Metropolitan Police held Mrs. Isabella Brinsmade for over a month without charge in the precinct house on West 47th Street. The twenty-year old Louisiana native had arrived in New York that August, sent by her merchant father who thought she would be safer there than in Union-occupied New Orleans. Her husband was away fighting in the Confederate Army, and she does not appear to have maintained any special affection for him. By all accounts Mrs. Brinsmade was intelligent, high-spirited, very attractive, and... liked to talk.

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The Darker Side of Civil War Service for African American New York Families

The Darker Side of Civil War Service for African American New York Families

By Holly Pinheiro

Prior to the 1960s, most white historians outright ignored the wartime experiences of African American soldiers. Few white historians, including Dudley Cornish, discussed United States Colored Troops regiments, and their analyses took a largely military focus by cataloguing a regiment’s mustering in and out process, military engagements, deaths, and causalities. These white historians opted to avoid any substantive discussion of African American military service. African American historians, conversely, began examining African American soldiers almost immediately following the war and continued long after.

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John Hughes, Irish Catholic NYC, and the Year of Revolutions

John Hughes, Irish Catholic NYC, and the Year of Revolutions

By John Loughery

In 1847, a rather breathless British travel writer, a Protestant named Susan Minton Maury, published her Statesmen of America in 1846 and was sufficiently impressed (not to say awed) by New York City's bishop, John Hughes, to devote twenty-five pages of her book — more space, in fact, than she gave to Daniel Webster, Chief Justice Taney, William Seward, or Martin Van Buren — to someone she described as “the historical man of the day” and the most impressive cleric in America. With his name appearing regularly in national newspapers, Hughes was certainly the most talked-about clergyman in the country.

This is an exclusive excerpt, adapted from the author's new book (released today!), Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America, courtesy of Cornell University Press.

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Foiling Attempted Kidnappings in Antebellum New York

Foiling Attempted Kidnappings in Antebellum New York

By David Fiske

The Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave shocked audiences a few years ago — not just with its depiction of the cruelty often endured by slaves — but also because of its acknowledgement of a tragic historical reality: that in those days a free-born African American could be kidnapped and enslaved. Sadly, the story told by the film — ​of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping and subsequent servitude — was not a story that was unique. Before the Civil War, kidnapping was conducted with a certain degree of regularity.

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Brooklyn’s Renaissance: Commerce, Culture, and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

Brooklyn’s Renaissance: Commerce, Culture, and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

Reviewed by Jocelyn A Wills

One never knows where a family heirloom will lead. Brooklyn’s Renaissance began with a cultural artifact that Italian Renaissance scholar Melissa Meriam Bullard’s mother inherited from a distant cousin: a portrait of Luther Boynton Wyman (1804-79), a forgotten shipping merchant for Liverpool’s Black Ball Line, long-time resident of Brooklyn Heights, and “guiding hand” in the founding of the “arts-friendly community” along Montague Street during the 1850s and 1860s (with the Academy of Music, now “BAM,” as Brooklyn’s cultural center).

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The Struggle for Teacher Education in 19th Century New York

The Struggle for Teacher Education in 19th Century New York

By Sandra Roff

Teaching as a profession aims to achieve the most noble of principles — educating children to be responsible, productive citizens. Unfortunately, the teachers hired in the early years of the new republic and well into the nineteenth century were usually untrained and unprepared for the job ahead. The civic-minded movers and shakers in New York City at the time were interested in the education of its youth, but the path to securing qualified teachers for the schools was slow to be realized.

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