Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lower Manhattan Slave History Walking Tour: 5/23/08

from Alan Singer's Website at Hofstra University

“Time to Tell the Truth About Local History, New York was a Land of Slavery”:
How Student Activism Promotes Leadership and Literacy
By Michael Pezone and Alan Singer
“Read the books and it's plain to see,
New York's the land of slavery,
If you thought the North was a freedom land,
You thought wrong -- because here you could own a man.
From Francis Lewis to Fernando Wood,
Slave labor is what was happening,
They bought and sold human beings and made their millions,
Soon the whole trade was worth more than 60 billion!
Read the books, if you don't trust me,
New York's the land of slavery.
AT&T and Citibank, just to name a few
From the slaveholding ranks,
Slaves used to be brought in all the time,
So we wanna know, JUST WHERE ARE THE SIGNS?
They tried to cover up these Northern slaves,
And if you thought it was just the South, then you got played,
Read the books, and you'll surely see,
That New York's the land of slavery.”
- India Nelson, junior, Law, Government and Community Service Magnet High School
On May 23, 2008, over six hundred upper elementary, middle-level, and high school students walked the streets of Manhattan learning about the forgotten history of slavery in New York City. It is the largest group to participate in the three-year history of the New York and Slavery Walking Tour.
There are no markers at the locations where enslaved Africans rebelled in 1712, where they plotted to win their freedom in 1741, where they were publicly executed – hung or burned at the stake -- or at the seaport where slave traders and bankers met to plan trans-Atlantic voyages. People, places, and events have been erased from the past. One of the purposes of the tour is to demand that historical markers be installed.
The New York and Slavery Walking Tour is organized by juniors and seniors from Law, Government, and Community Service Magnet High School. The population of the school is overwhelmingly African American, Caribbean, and Hispanic. Many of the students come from troubled communities and have academic difficulties. They are the survivors of less than adequate schools that produce more dropouts than graduates. They are leaders who have chosen to take ownership over their educations.
Each year, a new group of students chooses to take part in the project, a project they learn about from students who participated the previous year. They choose to become involved because they want to learn their history and the truth about American history. They also take part because they want to teach about it to the public and to other students from around the city.
Preparation takes a full school year, although the intensity picks up during the last three weeks before the tour date. The tour is in May because that is when the 1741 freedom plotters were executed in what is now New York City’s Foley Square (Singer, 2008). The square is now surrounded by courthouses, but as one tour guide explained to a group of elementary school students, “In colonial New York, there was no justice for Blacks who wanted to be free.”
In September, one of Michael Pezone’s upper-level history classes is invited to organize the tour. Because they know about it already from friends, not much persuasion is needed. But there is a lot of work to do. The class uses the New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance curriculum guide

The 2008 version of the tour followed the path outlined in red. The film clip above is made of about 10 clips that were made with a Flip Video and joined together using VisualHub. There were several classes (600 students in total) from boro-wide schools that followed the 2 hour tour. The kids listened intently and took notes. Most impressive were the presentations of the enthused, knowledgeable and articulate students from Law, Government and Community Service Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, Queens,(the former Andrew Jackson High School)


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