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1800s NYC Abolitionist Home & Possible Underground Railroad Stop Is Finally Landmarked

Claire Leaden Claire Leaden

1800s NYC Abolitionist Home & Possible Underground Railroad Stop Is Finally Landmarked

An essential piece of NYC and Black history is officially protected.

227 Duffield Street in Brooklyn was the home of Harriet and Thomas Truesdell from 1851-1863, where they helped Americans escape enslavement. And now, it will remain protected in NYC for years to come, with no chance of it being destroyed.

Mayor de Blasio and the city government worked with the Landmarks Preservation Committee to officially landmark the historic building this week, as part of the start to Black History Month this year.

The Trusedells worked first in Rhode Island, and then continued aiding the movement in Brooklyn when it became a center point of abolitionist work according to the city, “due to its active waterfront and large population of free African Americans.” Many enslaved people hid in the ships, and disembarked in Brooklyn, being hidden and protected by locals until traveling further north.

At the time, much of the activity was hidden because of the severe consequences for anyone not following the “1850 Fugitive Slave Law,” forcing citizens to return any enslaved people who had escaped. Some believe the home was even part of the Underground Railroad.

“The battle for justice in this country always has been – and always will be – fought in the heart of New York City,” Mayor de Blasio said. “Black History Month in this city means more than just words. It means honoring the legacy of the Black New Yorkers who came before us. I’m grateful to every advocate and community leader who made this day possible, and this city will continue to stand with you in the future.”

 

The designation has been a community effort in the works for many years. Local organizations and leaders like the Friends of Abolitionist Place, Equality for Flatbush, FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equity) and Joy “Mama Joy” Chatel had fought tirelessly for the home to be protected and properly recognized. New York State Attorney General Letitia James has also been a fierce advocate, helping to rename Duffield Street to “Abolitionist Place” to commemorate the rich history in the neighborhood back in 2007.

“We may not know the names of the African souls that traveled in secrecy and desperation through downtown Brooklyn in search of a better life, but we do know this is one of the many sites that served as a temporary haven as they sought freedom,” First Lady Chirlane McCray added.

“We also know that the residents of 227 Duffield Street risked losing power, respect and even their lives by helping those who were fleeing enslavement. These stories of our history need to be celebrated, not erased. It is an honor to highlight these sacred passages of our ancestors.”

featured image source: NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee

In other news: Brooklyn Bridge & Queensboro Bridge Will Get Their Own Dedicated Bike Lanes