Few migrants from other states came to New York City to pursue dreams with the nightmare of being the object of pursuit themselves. But the Underground Railroad—a secret network by which African-Americans escaped slavery in the South to seek freedom in northern states and in Canada—was in full steam by the 1830s.
Through the years leading up to the Civil War, hideaways for fugitive slaves were popularly known as “stations.” Researchers continue to eke out, identify and interpret evidence of these forgotten safe havens, whose vanishing signals still occasionally blink in unlikely places.
Brooklyn’s “Grand Central Depot”
Just a few months ago in Chelsea, the Hopper-Gibbons residence—a pair of formerly Quaker-owned adjoining townhouses on West 29th Street—received the protection of the city’s Landsmarks Preservation Commission as part of the Lamartine Historic District. The address is Manhattan’s only substantiated site along the ephemeral Underground Railroad. But Brooklyn abounds in such locations.
Today, on Saturday, June 19th, activities will kick off the 1st Annual New York City Underground Railroad Festival at the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, located in Brooklyn Heights. In 1847, the church’s first preacher, the incendiary abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher—whose sister Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin—fired up a hotbed of abolitionist spirit from the pulpit. Lois Rosebrooks, the church’s Director of History Ministry Services, will lead tours of the site to highlight this major stop on the Underground Railroad, venerated as Brooklyn’s “Grand Central Depot.”
Today’s program takes place under the heading of “Juneteenth”—the portmanteau given to distinguish the date June 19, 1865, when martial enforcement oversaw the end of slavery in Texas. Although far flung in origin, the holiday is regarded as the country’s oldest celebration of emancipation and is observed officially in 36 states including New York.
Today’s program from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Brooklyn Heights is as follows:
12:30 – 1:00 p.m.
Registration and ticket pickup/purchase
1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Greetings and opening remarks by Lois Rosebrooks, Director,
History Ministry Services, Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims
1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
• Tour of Underground Railroad hiding place led by Lois Rosebrooks
• Virtual Tour – NYC Abolition / UGRR Sites led by Carol Enseki
• Children / Quilting Activities by Fiberartist Aleeda Crawley
• Resources table
Light refreshments will be offered.
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Keynote / Q & A by Paul & Mary Liz Stewart, founders of the
Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region of New York
3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Musical Play, Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han and talkback
4:45 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Farewells by sponsors; raffle
Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims is located at 75 Hicks Street (at Orange Street), Brooklyn, New York 11201. It may be reached by the 2 or 3 subway to Clark Street, or by the A or C subway to High Street.
Admission is $20 ($10 for seniors, students and children). Online ticket purchases may be made via this link: http://www.undergroundrailroadfestival.org/