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Posts in Manhattan
“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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The Rebel Cafe: Sex, Race and Politics in Cold War America's Nightclub Underground

The Rebel Cafe: Sex, Race and Politics in Cold War America's Nightclub Underground

Reviewed by Burton W. Peretti

Stephen R. Duncan’s new book admirably fills a void in the historiography of 20th century American culture. We long have recognized that between the storied nightclub era of Prohibition days and the age of rock ’n’ roll, there was a perceptible but elusive set of nightlife entertainment venues that kept radical left-wing political values percolating during the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Historians have explored chapters in New York City’s interregnum — David Stowe, for example, covers Cafe Society in the late 1930s, Patrick Burke describes the jazz clubs on 52nd Street, and James Gavin chronicles European-style cabaret — but a comprehensive history, with more of a national perspective, has been lacking. Duncan’s ambitious and wide-ranging work makes a terrific new contribution toward defining the paramount significance of radical and intimate performance venues of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.

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New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

By Kara Murphy Schlichting

In 1865 New York City park commissioner Andrew Haswell Green came to the conclusion that the city had outgrown Manhattan Island. In a report for the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, Green argued that the city’s future should include its mainland environs of Westchester County north of the Harlem River. He articulated a river-spanning future for New York. Green reasoned that lower Westchester was “so intimately connected with and dependent upon the City of New York, that unity of plan for improvements on both sides” of the Harlem was “essential.”

Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

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The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections [Expansion] Myth #10: Example of Laissez-Faire Planning

The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections [Expansion] Myth #10: Example of Laissez-Faire Planning

By Gergely Baics & ​Leah Meisterlin

Not until 1916 did New York City acquire its comprehensive zoning resolution, the first in the nation. Through the 19th Century, the city’s land-use restrictions comprised a patchwork of fragmented and locally scaled public and private regulatory interventions, including nuisance laws, fire zones, building codes, and deed restrictions in the form of restrictive covenants. Although with this patchwork of caveats, it is fair to describe this early land-use regime as largely unregulated, at least by our contemporary standards.

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Recovering New York’s Entangled Dutch, Native American, and African Histories: An Interview with Jennifer Tosch

Recovering New York’s Entangled Dutch, Native American, and African Histories: An Interview with Jennifer Tosch

By Andrea Mosterman

Many of New York’s Dutch colonists and their descendants relied on the labor of enslaved people. Some historic sites have struggled to address this part of their history and looked for ways in which they can share it with their visitors. For example, an exhibit at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn, built in 1699 by Hendrick Claessen Vechte, includes a brief discussion of the home’s enslaved residents. Yet, much of the Dutch history of slavery in New York City and its surroundings is still little known, especially among the general public.

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History Museums and Capitalism: The Need for Critical Conversations

History Museums and Capitalism: The Need for Critical Conversations

By Andrew Urban

In November, 2018, the Public Historian published a review that I wrote of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s newest tour: Under One Roof. The tour interprets the lives of three families who lived in the tenement at 103 Orchard Street — which was acquired by the museum in 2007 — from the 1940s up until the recent past. Addressing post-World War II immigration and migration to the Lower East Side, the educators leading the tours that I took did an excellent job highlighting how Americans have frequently been reluctant to welcome the world’s “huddled masses,” national myths notwithstanding.

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The State Versus Harlem

The State Versus Harlem

By Matt Kautz

Over the past few years, Americans have paid greater attention to the harm caused by opiates and rising heroin use, specifically in white, rural areas. The New York State Department of Health has dedicated a large portion of its website to sharing statistics of opioid overdoses in the state, warning signs about what addiction looks like, information on the state’s program for monitoring doctor’s prescriptions, and how those addicted can receive treatment.

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A Love Letter to Babette Edwards: Harlem’s “Othermother”

A Love Letter to Babette Edwards: Harlem’s “Othermother”

By Terri N. Watson

On February 5, 1971, Babette Edwards and Hannah Brockington submitted a joint letter of resignation from I.S. 201’s Community Education Center to David X. Spencer, chairman of the governing board for the Arthur A. Schomburg I.S. 201 Educational Complex. The three-page letter outlined their frustrations with the teachers and school leaders who worked in the complex and their belief that “schools exist to make teachers and principals happy; not a place where children learn.” In the opening paragraph Edwards explained the challenges faced by the parents of Harlem:

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Hugh Ryan's When Brooklyn Was Queer

Hugh Ryan's When Brooklyn Was Queer

Reviewed by Benjamin Serby

“Pick a random book about ‘New York City’ history, and chances are, it will mention Brooklyn… sporadically if at all. The chance that it talks about the queer history of Brooklyn? Nearly zero.” Thus writes Hugh Ryan, a curator and author whose new book, When Brooklyn Was Queer, marks a first attempt at correcting the ingrained Manhattan-centrism of queer studies and recovering the stories of queer Brooklynites in particular.

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How Do We Mourn Publicly? Memorialization and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

How Do We Mourn Publicly?: Memorialization and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

By Kim Dramer

Around the turn of the 20th century, the shirtwaist, a type of blouse, was the choice of fashionable New York women. Stylish women in shirtwaists embellished by intricate tucks and lace inserts cut an elegant figure on the streets of New York. But the ample cut of the shirtwaist also gave the freedom of movement required by women who toiled in the city’s sweatshops where the shirtwaists were cut, sewn and trimmed. Across lower Manhattan, garment factories sprang up in which row after row of young women sat behind sewing machines. In their pursuit of the American dream, they toiled long hours for low wages, enduring dangerous working conditions. At the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 500 blouse factories in New York City, employing upwards of 40,000 workers.[1]

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