tv Black Gotham CSPAN June 24, 2017 4:00pm-5:14pm EDT
what the president said on television. the attack was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking to u.s. destroyers with torpedoes. >> next, the lives of black elites in new york city. several people discussed or ms. peterson's ancestors. they often lived in racially mixed neighborhood. in 2011 at the jefferson market library in new york city. the greenwich village society hosted this hour 10 minute event.
>> i want the start out my talk with two quotes. um, they're both from the prologue of my book, and i'll give a little explanation for them, um, but they introduce why i decided to write book. so the first quote is in my own prose from the prologue. we still hold certain truths about african-americans to be self-evident; that the phrase 19th century black americans refers to enslaved people. that the, that new york state before the civil war denotes a place of freedom, that blacks in this new york city designates harlem, that the black community posits a classless and culturally unified society, that a black elite did not exist until well into the 20th
century. the lives of my new york forebearers belies such assumptions. they were born free at a time when slavery was still legal in new york state. they lived in racialty-mixed neighborhoods, first in lower manhattan and then after the civil war in brooklyn at a time when harlem was a mere village. they were part of new york's small but significant community and, specifically, its elite class. so the first impulse for my writing the book was my desire to overturn these assumptions, assumptions that we live with almost on a daily basis. and, therefore, to point to the significance of the black elite in new york city. so it was a professional impulse, if you will. the second quote is from the end graph of the prologue. and it is from toni morrison's "beloved." denver was seeing it now and feeling it through beloved, and the more fine points she made, the more details she provided, the more beloved liked it. so she anticipated the questions by giving blood to the scraps
her mother and grandmother told her. and a heartbeat. denver spoke, beloved listened, and the two did the best they could to create what really happened. how it really was. something only stephane knew because she alone had the mind for it and the time afterward to shape it. so this second quote points to one of my great concerns in writing the book, the idea to recover my family's past. not my mother's, but my great, great grandparents, my great grandparents and realizing that their memories were not my memories. so how could i tell the story of memories that were not my own and that had just come down to me in scraps? be and how could i then give
blood and a heartbeat to these scraps? so that was my second, much more personal motivation for writing the book. and, indeed, i had a hard time trying to give blood and a heartbeat to the scraps i found. because i started with almost nothing, with really one false story. the false story, partly false story, basically, i was told that i had a great grandfather, that he'd been born in haiti, that his name was philippe, that at the time of the haitian revolution he left haiti, went to paris, became a pharmacist, then came to new york and an lo sized his name to phillip augustus white. the story was half true. there was no haiti in the background, there was no trip to paris. he was born, actually, in this new jersey, in the hoboken, moved very quickly -- [laughter] moved very quickly to new york city and did become a pharmacist. so i was faced with a real problem there. and as i started my research to find family stories, what i discovered was that there had actually been a real will to commemorate in, among 19th century black new yorkers that forgetting was not their way of life.
they started off, first of all, in commemorations, for example, of important events like the abolition of the slave trade, january 1, 1808, and commemorated it every, every, um, year after on the same day in ceremonies, in parade. they commemorated the abolition of slavery in the state of new york which was july 4, 1827. they had newspapers, the colored american freedoms journal, where they wrote about themselves in this a desire to commemorate. they tried to erect statues, for example, one to hen rhode island highland -- henry highland garnet who i might mention a little later. he's really not central to this talk, but he'd been an important black heeder. they wanted to create -- leader. they wanted to create a memorial in his honor.
they managed to create but by and large did not manage to preserve. so the problem of preservation became a tremendous one. when you're an undersourced community, when you don't have fund and resources, how do you preserve? so so much got lost by the wayside. and, of course, the best example i could give that all of you are familiar with is the negroes' burial ground in downtown, right, new york. how it was the black cemetery all the way throughout the 18th century, got destroyed in 1795 because of real estate speculation, what else in new york? so the cemetery was taken over to make ground for, to lay -- lay ground for new lots to be sold, houses to be build, et, et. -- etc., etc. and then there was the problem of the archives. the earliest new york archive was established by john pintard, a very well known, white elite
man. but black new yorkers had to wait until the 1920s to arturo shone berg to -- schaumberg to establish the schaumberg center. and yet, basically, the archives were, ultimately, my only resource. it's the only place i had to go to since my family had given me so little and half of a story. so what i do in the book, and i do want to point this out, is the book unfolds on two level t. own within -- levels. on one level it's the story of my search, how i went through the archives looking for material, finding, not finding, how i put them together. and on the second level, of course, it is the story it. so i started out in the schaumberg, and i was really lucky, lucky to find very early on two scrapbook pages in an
archival collection. and in them i found the obituary pasted on the scrapbook of my great grandfather and then my great, great grandfather. so this is the first scrapbook page. it is my great grandfather. and, of course, the name was with phillip augustus white, so i recognized him immediately. to give you a really quick thumbnail sketch, he was born in 1823, died in 1891. he was from a fairly poor family. his father died when he was young. he went to one of the public schools, they called them a colored school. he, afterwards, went to train with james mckeon smith who's one of our early doctors and pharmacists and was an apprentice in smith's pharmacy for two years. that then enabled him to enter the college of pharmacy of the city of new york. and he got a degree in 1844.
1844, black man from the college of pharmacy. his great -- then he established a pharmacy, a drug tore in downtown new york. it is on the corner of what was frankfurt and gold street and part of pace university is there now. he made quite a bit of money through his drugstore. the money he had he gave back to two causes, one the education of black children and the other his church. st. phillip's episcopal church. when he moved to brooklyn in 1870, he settled there. in 1883 seth lowe, who was then mayor of brooklyn, aponted him to the -- appointed him to the brooklyn board of education. he had the first plaque seat on the brook -- black seat on the brooklyn board of education. so that is my great grandfather. this is his father-in-law, my great, great grandfather. so you can check your family e tree. phillip white marries elizabeth, and this is elizabeth's father.
he was the one who -- no, his parent were haitian. he was born in new york. he was born in 1813, died in the early 1880s. went to a school that i come back and talk to you, talk about later. did a variety of odd jobs, married my great, great grandmother who died very young, i know nothing about her. and in his second marriage he married into the ray family. they were a prominent family, and cornelius' brother, peter williams gray, had a pharmacy. so he was brought into the drugstore as a pharmacist. he had no background the way my great grandfather did, no training, but he could become a pharmacist. he, too, was very devoted to st. phillip's. um, the other treasure-trove that i found at the schaumberg were the harry williamson papers. and, again, if you look down on the family tree, you will see him there.
and i won't go into any detail, and maybe that doesn't show up too well. but in the, in doing the family research, the woman on the right here is mary joseph lyons, and she is the sister of my great, great grandmother, rebecca marshall. so, and she married this man, lyons. and i bring them up although i'm not going to talk about them much in this talk tonight, i bring them up because albro lyons said to his daughter -- so she's on the family tree -- that he wanted to write the story, the history of his generation. but he never got further than the title, and the title he had picked was "the gentleman in black." so he said to his daughter, i am not going to be able to do it. i want you to do it. so in this same collection of papers we have a typed manuscript about 85 pages,
pretty much in draft form, organizeally at least, and what she said was that from the vast output of fugitive scrap she was going to try and write her memoir. and she titled it "memory t of yesterdays -- memories of yesterdays. all of which i saw and part of which i was, an autobiography." so she wrote the 85 pages but didn't get it published. so i consider my book "black gotham," to be the final event, the final publication of this idea of writing the history of the gentleman in black which goes well back into the 19th century. and i just hope if they're looking down listening, watching, reading that they approve of what i did. [laughter] um, but what i want to say is that the word "scrap" really stuck with me. the scrapbook pages that i found, and then the daughter saying that she wrote her memoir
from the vast output of fugitive scraps. so i see my book very much as a scrapbook. there are parts, i choose an event or a story, i tell it. my chronology, it's a chronological story, but there are gaps which i can't possibly fill in, and i don't try to. so i think of my book as a scrapbook. i also talk about it as a partial history meaning i'm not trying to give an entire history, i'm not even trying to give an objective history. my history is partial. it's partial because it's about my family, and it's because it's only a part of black new york history and because i am partial to it. it's also a chronological history but very much a cyclical one because what it does is traces the ups and downs of black new yorkers.
every time they feel that they've made social, political, economic progress something happens to slap them in the face and bring them down again. lastly, though, i also think of it as a spatial history. and that's why i titled the book, "black gotham," to show the way in which the degree to which so much of their life was formed by where they lived, the city of gotham and the neighborhoods in it. so i'm going to name the five, um, spaces. i think of it, the space as concentric circles. and i'm going to name the five of them now, and then i'm going to come back, and i'm only going to talk about a couple of them. if i tried to do the whole thing, we'd be here all night. so the first one, then, is what alexander krummel called the wide circle of the leading citizens of new york and the vicinity, basically the black elite. the second is the black community, and i'm sure that's a term you all hear a lot, the
black community this, that and the other. so just to give you a sense of some numbers for those of you who like numbers, in 1840 the number of black inhabitants was about 16,400 out of 313,000. this is all approximate. and then it declines to about 12,500, um, out of 814,000 in 1860. so just some kind of ballpark numbers. the third, which i'm going to come pack, is the city itself, gotham, where they lived in racially-mixed neighborhoods and had a variety of contact with whites and blacks. so that's something i will definitely come back to. then beyond goth ma'am -- gotham, the contacts that they had with blacks in other cities like philadelphia, boston, so forth. and last weekend if one of my audiences, there was a man from philly, and we can have a real go to because the differences in sensibility and culture in 9th century -- 19th century black philadelphia and boston were very different from new york, and we can talk about that in q&a, if you want to. and finally and not the least important is the sense of being
a citizen of the world. that they were cosmopolitan, that they belonged to the entire world, that they were part of the entire world. so let me start by talking a little bit about the elite and this idea of the wide circle of the leading citizens of new york and vicinity. so the first thing that i want to point out is the way in which education was really absolutely foundational to this elite. if nothing else, i could say this is a book about education. education, education, education. so what you hear now is not new at all. i mean, turn on new york one, and you're hearing about the school system, etc., etc. same issues back then. this is the famous school of the early 19th century. it's an african-free school. it was called the mulberry
street school. and that is where my great, great grandfather -- peter -- went to school. and he went to school with a bunch of young men who turned out to be leaders, real leaders of the black community both in new york and beyond. and i'll just name the ones that i'm going to come and talk about later. there was george downing, charles reason and his brother patrick, and james mckeon smith. so the values there were very much the values of a liberal arts egg, what today we would call the solid foundation of a liberal arts education. in addition to that, there were development or education in other areas. character was one. respectability, another. the acquisition of wealth. this is new york. basically, work hard, become very skilled in your trade or in your profession and make money in the process.
but then give money back to the community. and finally, in this idea of cosmopolitanism. read shakespeare, read milton, read wordsworth and have a sense of the entire world. so what i think is really important to think of here is the way in which when we say black-american or african-american, you know, an image immediately comes to mind, and i -- kind of static. what i want to point out is the very dynamic process of making identity in this period. people have been kidnapped from and brought enslaved to the new world, to the united states, to america, to the united states, to new york. and they didn't become black-american or african-americans overnight, but the the a process of struggle. and that was -- of trying to forge identity. and that's what the schooling was all about. so to pass on that circle number one, to pass on circle number two is the, um, black community it with all the institutions,
literate society, political societies, so forth. and i'm not going to spend much time talking about these. we can come back in the q&a period. i will say they're mainly male organizations. women are not members. they're definitely not officers. they're invited as companions to a talk like now, right? but they would never be a member of the greenwich village society for historic preservation. but they could accompany their spouse to it. and that presented, that was an incredible research problem for me which i could talk about later. um, the other thing, um, so that, basically, is the black community, and i'm going to pass on. so education schools were one, and churches the other. and my family's church was st. phillips episcopal church. it was down here in lower manhattan and is now up in
harlem. the third circle is that of gotham, and this is where i'm going to spend the rest of my time talking. and i have a section in my book titled distance and proximity because what i want to point out is no matter how distant black new yorkers were from their white counterparts, either poor, native-born irish immigrants, german immigrants or even wealthier whites, um, they were never, there was still proximity. because they lived downtown in racially-mixed neighborhoods, um, in ward four and ward fife fife -- ward five and ward six and ward eight. they were always close to others, people who were not like them. not necessarily in the same house or the same tenement, but maybe tenements on the street or at least block to block. and what this led to were some really surprising, to me surprising -- and to them also -- unpredictable contacts with
whites. and i'm just going to mention a couple of things, um, that i talk about and that i think are, make point. the first is all new yorkers experience the same indignity of living in new york, the same filth, the same pigs who are running around, right? rooting -- eating garbage and knocking people over and biting you in the leg. the same disease like smallpox, like cholera, like yellow fever. unless you were wealthy and could escape town. but the other thing maybe more important is this idea of what i call whimsy, that there's no real set protocol for race relations. you would think that in the 1840s, '50s, '60s with a city in which racial discrimination, hostility is so intense that every boundary would be tightly drawn, and you would really know what to do.
and yet they encountered what i call whimsy. my new toy. her memoir says writing for colored folks depended on the whims of drivers. she talks about going to school at times she was free to get on the railroad car. at other times she was like, no, you have to wait for the colored car. another would be going to crystal palace which was the great exhibit which was put on in the 1850s modeled after london's crystal palace, this great exhibit hall. and a comment in a newspaper is that black new yorkers have been casting the horoscope as to whether colored people would be admitted. so one day you could be admitted, another not. there were high cultural events, and in a way the black elite
hoped that class would trump race, that if they had education, understood kind of high culture, that they would be free to go. and that was true a lot of times. they went to the opera, hay went to plays -- they went to plays, they went to bookstore, they went to art galleries. but in one instance they were forbidden to enter. and this is when one of their own, an opera singer named elizabeth taylor greenfield, came up from philadelphia, black singer, to sing. and the hall in which she was to sing did not have a segregated section. and so the black elite were turned away and told that they couldn't enter. so they raised a brouhaha and were finally allowed to get in. so that is to show the confusion.
the real whimsy that operated in new york for the black elite and for all black new yorkers. for the remainder, for my next half of the talk i'm going to focus on this area which is something that dana asked me to do, and i'm going to be focusing specifically on three sites. one is broadway, another is lawrence street which was parallel to thompson street north of houseton, and the third is -- and that's the lawrence street school. and the third is the african grove theater which was located on mercer street. and i want to show two things. one, the way in which distance and proximity still obtained in this area, and the other is i think i see a way to also point out while i'm talking about place and what happened in certain places to point out some of the moral values underlying the happenings. so what happens, i'm going to talk a little bit about the
white elite first. the white elite, of course, started downtown like everybody did, and they gradually start to move up. they're trying to flee the very thing they were creating, right? commercialization, brouhaha in the city. so they come up to the village, to st. johns park and broadway. and then at a certain point, of course, they move north of bleaker street. and so there was that phrase, you know, above bleaker street, and that's where the upper tendom, as they called, lived. and they were also in the, in to bond street, lafayette place area. so i want to read now a little passage from my book in which i talk about george foster and the way in which he capture ors broadway and that period. so going all the way up broadway starting maybe a little bit below houston going up. what was -- so i talk about the
way in which the, bond street/lafayette place area is nice and quiet. what was not quiet was broadway, an avenue marked by contrast. writer george foster well captured it flavor in his recent book. it was the contrast of morning and afternoon. at daybreak broadway was hushed and solitary. the few who were about could amuse themselves watching the awakened swine gallop furiously downward to have the first cut at the new garbage. later in the day, however, a mass of people would surge through the street, a human river in -- fresh roaring and foaming towards the sea. then there were the contrasts of buildings. some had sprung up haphazardly. a brick schoolhouse, a penitentiary or pound there. finally, what caught your eye depended on where you looked. down, a rotten cellar door. straight ahead, a plate glass window stuffed with gaudy
cashmeres and mildewed muslims. above, an interminable line of crooked well posts armed with glass bottles and held together by wire clotheslines. what foster failed to mention was the contrast between day and night. because come nightfall the area around houseton street would be overrun with people. customers in search of good food, good drink, good entertainment and, yes, good sex. the area had become a center of the city's sex trade. prostitutes were everywhere, in hotels, in the private supper rooms of restaurants, in upstairs drinking rooms and saloons, in the brothels that lined the streets, on streets where they handed out cards. walt whitman was certain that in no other place could vice show it so impudently. so that is broadway. then i want to move on to my
second place which is the lawrence or -- lawrence street school for colored children located a few block north of houseton and i do not, unfortunately, i do not have an image of it. and this is where my great grandfather, so my great, great grandfather goes to the mulberry street school, and my great grandfather goes to the lawrence street school. and i know a lot about my great grandfather because of the, um, very lengthy eulogy that this man, george downing, wrote and published in the brooklyn citizen at the time of my great grandfather's death. and so what he says is that my great grandfather, that phillip white's father was named thomas white, that he was a white man from northern england. he says absolutely nothing about phillip's mother, but from looking at the, at phillip's death certificate, it says that she comes from jamaica. her name was elizabeth steele. she was undoubtedly black.
she's the one who because of her my great grandfather is labeled, was labeled colored or mulatto. i don't know where they met, i don't know whether she was slave or free. i don't know whether they actually married. i don't know how they ended up in the united states. but thomas dies in 1835, and then it's up to elizabeth steele white to give her children an education. and she gets -- phillip goes to the lawrence street school. in another serendipitous moment of research, i was at the new york historical society and looking through the public school society record. 90 volumes of writing. i come across this note that says the public school society twice paid my great grandfather on january 25 and then on april 28 1840, three dollars for making fires in african public
he instinctively shun ordinary and the commonplace, and kept himself aloof from all that was awkward and unseemly. he could and would teach, but only if allowed his right choice in those willing and able to the selection of his pupils. those willing and able to submit to his processes found compensation far in excess of action. he taught had to study, develop a love of study or studies sake to those mentally alert, inspiring and diligent he disclosed interest. satisfaction and wonder, whoever could be trying to enjoy what he himyed in the way it please and had measureless content and complete as exceptional. i don't know whether he would like to have him as your teacher, but that's what he was. so philip was, according to george, a very good student, worked very hard and did very well at the school.
salon graduation he needed to learn a trade. so his mother, elizabeth, with the help of george downing, placed him first with patrick reason. so patrick is charles' older brother i think. and yet become an engraver. he had worked. he had become quite a well-known and greater, and he took philip into his shop as an apprentice. it didn't work out. so, downing says a three months probation satisfied parent and master that the apprentice had not the slightest aptitude for the work. so then philip came forward with his own idea and pronounced that he wanted to be a pharmacist. so that's what he was sent to apprentice with gene smith in his pharmacy on west broadway, and then because he had a two-year apprenticeship, he was able to go to the college of pharmacy. and you know the rest of the story. so, what i want to point out, not only that these men made mentored philip, but also that they were businessmen in their own right. and i want to emphasize the
degree to which entrepreneurship was so important in the black community. the hard work, to show that you're working hard, the satisfaction of doing really well, of becoming really skilled in your trade or in your profession. and, finally, as i said, making money in order to buy property, become a property owner, be able to vote because there was a $250 minimum to vote. and in order to give back to the community. so george downing had so george downing had a store on broadway right, i think it's north of bleecker. right above bleecker. and he placed ads in the new york daily tribune that boast of such specialties as pickled oysters and bone turkey. he was appealing then to both white and black customers in . patrick reasons engraving shop
was on bond street and was patronized either families on bond street, the white elite with last names like ward, schermerhorn, lowell, et cetera. so these men were doing very well. wealth was not the only important thing for the black elite, as i said before. one was respect. another was respectability. you had to behave in respectable way, as well as character. so character is the formation, the moral formation, right, of and respectability is its outward manifestation. if you're an upright moral person come if you work hard, if you go to church, if you treat your family well and so forth, then it would automatically show on the outside in proper behavior, proper forms of dress, and so forth. so respectability was as important, probably more
important than wealth in acquiring, in becoming part of the black unique. to give you a sense of -- let me see. i want to show you -- let me see. that's my great-grandfather, philip white. so he is, think of him as the image of respectability, ok? he has this drugstore, makes quite a bit of money. he promotes black education. he's the pillar of saint philips episcopal church. he is mr. respectability himself. so i now want to go on to the disrespectful, because we get an respectability by looking at disrespectability. so here he is.
you can turn to my family tree. this is my great, great grandparent, joseph marshall and elizabeth hulett marshall. this is elizabeth brother. he's my great, great great grand uncle and his name is jean sheila. the only way i could really give you a flavor of what he was like is to read a passage from a book. i'm going to do a little reading now. the details of hewlett's career are fascinating but incomplete. he was a member of the african theater form by william brown in 1821. this is a location on mercer street. so this is my third place. i gave you broadway, lawrence street, and now this is mercer street. so the african grove theatre in 1881. initially the african grove was simply a tea garden in brown's backyard were black new yorkers congress for musical events and social activities. once the theater company was formed it played in different ring to downtown locations until brown opened his own space on mercer street in 1822. from then until the early 1830s
, he performed with brown's company and also in many other venues to close to home at the military garden in brooklyn, somewhat farther afield in philadelphia, saratoga and alexandria, virginia. and even across the seas in london and south america. hewlett aspired to be a pure shakespearean actor. he played the lead role in richard the third and also gave solo performances of scenes from othello. much like other bunning actors of the day, he honed his craft by imitating famous shakespearean performers like edmund kean. some of his other roles are more explicitly some of his other roles are more explicitly subversive, however. indirectly hinting at the subordination and resistance of black americans. the warriors need achieved in the ballet pantomime of some, the rebel leader of team shot away, or the insurrection of the anti-colonial lyrics of
nationalist scottish ballads. black new yorkers flocked to performances at the african grove theatre. so might not have been hewlett's acting or even his politics that his family found so offensive. they might well -- because of that, they drummed him out of the family. so there's a note in the paper saying he was a play actor in his day and he was drummed out of the family. so it's not necessary his acting or even his politics that his family found so offensive. they might well have enjoyed watching them and roles of richard the third or king shot away. but racism made theatergoing a dangerous activity. from the start, new yorkers were hostile to brown's enterprise. they complained about noise from the tea garden. they objected to the theater staging of shakes fist of popular play of the day come and
they resented brown's aggressive recruitment of white customers. in 1822, conflict burst out into the open. the please read the the police raided the theater during a january performance and arrested the actors. a group of rowdy whites follow suit in august storm the theater and causing a riot. hewlett seems to have escaped bodily harm although brown was severely beaten. it's also true that hewlett could single-handedly stirred up plenty of bad publicity that must have made his family cringe. were complementaryre reports, possibly true, possibly not, about his performances that smacked of stereotypes of the childlike permissive black. snipes insisted that when hewlett sang ballads he translates the lyrics into black dialect, reciting lines like is dara harton, is a heart that never loved, for example? british actor matthew's who had
befriended hewlett while touring the united states, also satirize him in public. returning to london, matthews created a show based on his american trip in which he mocked hewlett's strange alterations to hamlet, which included his singing of a real negro melody at the end of the performance. hewlett respond by publishing a rebuttal in the local newspaper, defending his own acting abilities as well as the right of blacks to perform shakespeare. although a laudable act of self-defense, the letter also opened hewlett up to more bad publicity. then there were hewlett repeated problems with the law. in some cases he was a victim or mere bystander. when he decided to open a scattering shop which was a dry cleaners in 1823 to make ends meet, a competitor beat him up.
in 1825, hewlett took a position as stewart onboard a ship but was obliged to testify in court after passenger was accused of repeatedly assaulting the only other passenger on board. but in later years, hewlett turned perpetrator. in 1835 he again signed up as a steward.ar he was arrested and convicted of stealing very articles from , several bottles of wine and border. he served a six-month sentence. in 1837 he was accused of seducing and abandoning a white woman and was sentenced one month hard labor. later that same year he was caught stealing a watch from the house of a man who had just died and was returned to prison. despite his pleas, gentlemen, don't put me in the newspapers, it will hurt my character, his misdeeds were widely reported in the press.
after this episode, hewlett disappears from public view. so i did my best to try and trace him down, but no luck. so that give you an example of disrespectability, the kind of thing the black elite and that my family shunned and wanted to have no part of it. so i want to come back and say a little bit about women. and what i can say, i can talk more about what they actually did in the q&a, but here i just want to point out the way in which women as part of the black elite helped to police the norms of respectable behavior. so they were the ones who were very prominent in defining norms of respectability. the memoir offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the social lives of the black elite. it tells of the pleasures that they enjoyed despite the heart conditions under which they labored. among the friends of our family,
richard rowe, where two circles founded on personal preference. these were led respectively by mrs. reason, charles reasons wife, and mrs. elizabeth bowers. the farmer gathered about are the studious and conservative, and kept open house for all visitors of note. the latter was surrounded by loving folk, young and old. , not to have a good time was impossible. to mrs. reason belongs the honor of being able to hold a son-in-law. frenching of french blood major clean of entertainers and covered her with a case in the social functions that were irreproachable. many pages later, richard added
a third woman, her mother. so if i can go back. that's mary joseph lyons. her her mother to the left. mother was the life of a migrant of young single and married folks who found in her asocial woman whose company was as agreeable as when she was a maiden. with her it was possible to have a good time without fuss and feathers. her guests were frequent. they danced, played or sung, play games or so for charity. and all alike founded opportunity to pass many delightful hours with her in the home were courtesy, sociability and friendliness reigned supreme. it was permissible for families to move from one circle to another. no hard and fast lines were drawn, however. the same persons could be met , now in theircle other. so you can understand how somebody like james hewlett with his play acting career, with his brushes with the law, with his time spent in prison, with his hard labor, so forth, would not have been welcomed in these salons where courtesy, sociability and courtesy reigned
friendliness rain to supreme. the other thing i can point out supreme.o the other thing i can point out about this passage, i think it is you a glimpse into something that i try but really had a very hard time talking about it in my book, which was pleasure but because we're so used to talking about oppressed, subordinated people, as oppressed and subordinated, and being victims having a downtrodden life, and always had a sense of obligation of duty and so forth. and one of the things i tried to capture here in their social life but also in their participation in saint philips episcopal church was the sense of pleasure and appreciation of beauty. that's certainly true i think of the episcopal denomination and rituals. and the ability, yeah, to enjoy beauty, to enjoy aesthetic
experience. so i'm going to close now. if you read my book, we go from lower manhattan over to brooklyn in 1870, and the book goes out up to about 1895. so we had a kind of scattering of the black population. and, of course, later on they go to harlem, right, in about, after 1910 or whatever. so the conclusion rather than talk about scattering, i want to talk about coming back together. on a windy october day last fall, i took a trip to cypress hills cemetery in brooklyn armed with a map provided by the front office, i went searching for the graves of my forebears and their friends would let lower manhattan and later brooklyn for their final resting place. the white family plot late on the flat land near a broad path surrounded by tall, leafy trees. buried there were philip's mother, elizabeth, two of his history and their family, and
philip and his family. alexander, charles and their families lay nearby. so i did have a chance to talk about them in this talk, but they figure prominently in the book. right next to phillips grave lay that of james, recently rediscovered and commemorate with the brand-new marker. i was astonished to discover that all these men have bought their plots at the same time, between january and may of 1850, determined that not even death would separate them. crossing the path and walking up a hill, i found the land that saint philip's church a bot for bought for its parishioners in the late 1850s. the ray family plot which included peter, was notable for tall that generous country in the waning days of the 19th century, new york's black elite reunited in this burial ground. are physical
reminders of their lives and commemorations other deaths. they serve as an archive, a place for safekeeping. a place for storing memories of the past that are simply waiting to be brought back to life and life in the rightness of time. thank you. [applause] >> any questions? >> thank you for your presentation. >> thank you. >> what did he feel like when you have this aha moment of finding a puzzle piece? and also discovering that you are missing other pieces? in your putting together these threads, did you ask any of the sources how they came to have this information?
>> the first thing i will point out, and it's not exactly what you asked me, but i want to make this clear. i had nobody living to ask. i had a couple of leads, a woman who contacted me after seeing something that i wrote on the web, and i was so excited that day. i remember going, i teach at the university of maryland in the english department, and i remember saying latest afternoon, i'm going to call us on as she will fill in the gaps. and no, she wanted information from me. so i was so disappointed. then the second question is finding the manuscript material. i mean, i would just shake, i would just shake and quiver to find the first ones, finding that when least expected.
there were 12 shoeboxes, you know, about like that. remember the old days? and i got to box eight and it was a moment and which were sets in and you are like, how can i do this? when i thought, i would go hot and cold and you shake. you're any manuscript room, and you are wearing gloves in this book is open, you are facing the archivists to be sure that you you don't run away with anything and you have something called a snake to put down to hold things down. and then you've got your magnifying glass. you've got all the paraphernalia around you, and it's so hard to get -- i mean, i could feel the emotions, but it's so hard to express them. so when they found the one at the new york historical society, and that was days and days of just going through these written records, and i was like, why am i doing this? and the young man there, his name was fernando, and i went and told him and he said to me, he got really excited.
this was his one excitement. he said i could give you this book. you know i can't. and your third question was about when i -- [inaudible] >> yes, ok. so at the schaumburg, the woman had written a book called the free negro in antebellum new york. it was a columbia dissertation from the 1970s, and she died before publishing it. her husband had gotten it published as a book, and then gave the manuscript collection to the schaumburg. -- the book is all and everybody says, go to the recent scholarship. she had really, really done her homework. i mean, she did everything. and i ended up just repeating what she did, just for verifying
that everything she had panned out. so she had given it to the schaumburg, so the material i saw in her book, i kind of expected to find there. you know, as a primary source , not just as a footnote. i was really stunned to find, to find that. and nobody knows where the scrapbook page comes from. and that's another one, i think, cannot fill in. where does it come from? someone cared enough. there are poems next to the obituary, and each poem i realize it is a poem about something significant in my great grandfather's life. so there's trinity, the mother church of saint phillips. there is why johnny can't read, about education. references is about dying and going to have it and god saying, you know, so why do you deserve to be here? and he says ask my wife and
daughters three. and so the person really new knew philip and really loved him. i mean, that's the whole commemoration right there. >> hi. i'm with the lower manhattan history project. i want to thank you for this wonderful presentation. it gives me goosebumps that one of your relatives is james hewitt. it's amazing. i just did the walking to a few weeks ago and i did mention him. so this is amazing. so my question is, what was at the lawrence schools located? >> it was on florence street, which was one block parallel to thomson.
>> [inaudible] laguardia.s thank you, george. reason'sck engraving shop, you have an address for that? >> it's in my book. i think it is 50 something. >> that would've been approximate what year? >> that would've been the '50s and again it's about. >> ok, great. >> he moved to cleveland after, and i'm not sure whether he ever comes back. ease in cleveland in the 1860s. he comes back to visit but not to live. so i would say the shop was from the 1850s. i'm pretty sure it's in the 1850's. >> thank you so much.
>> i don't remember if you mention how long it took you from the day you decided to do this until the actual book came out, but i'm sure you want to such an up and down escalator of emotions. how did you know when you are all done, and how did you feel when you're finished with the? i would wonder. >> that's a really good question. because nobody else knew, and i'm not sure i did. i just -- i was tenacious, and i would just dig and dig and i could not give it a rest. and after about two or three years my husband said, well, why don't
you start writing what i said i don't have anything to write. and he's a been working at this for two or three years. i said i have an outline, i have the bare bones of it, but i know that it is the detail to make the book sizzle. it's all going to be in the detail. so getting the date -- i think bond street.ag you know, getting that stuff right is going to make all the difference in the world. so i would say to him, why start writing if i'm just going to have to go over and do it? so i really wanted the detail, and i dug and dug and dug long before, long after people told me to stop, especially historians. and i'm a literary critic by training. i teach in english department. i am not a historian, but people were laughing and saying, give it a rest. so i will give you one example. an independent scholar i knew had said about phillips obituary, where it said he apprenticed with smith.
and some cranky scholars said, how do you know? it's just in the obit so how do you know? i said it's an obit. he's like well, you don't know. so i decide i should really try and track it down. and i started looking for the apprenticeship, and then going to the college of pharmacy at of the city of new york, which is also in the obit. and i found out that the college of pharmacy have become part of columbia in 1903 or 1904 i think, and then was part of the college of, the school of pharmacy and it's been disbanded in the 1970's. so i called up the archivist at columbia and started pestering him come and he said no, we don't have them. we probably threw it out, which i was like i don't believe you. so i decided i was going to keep on looking. so i started calling historians of american pharmacy around the country, and i called here and there and elsewhere, and i finally said, this is my last phone call, and i reached him
a man some plays i think it was ohio state. he said to me, well, you know the best collection of pharmacy papers are at the wisconsin historical society. i was like, i did know that. and and he said yeah, because wisconsin, the university of wisconsin was the first school to establish a graduate department in pharmacy sometime back in the 19th century. so i booked a plane ticket and went out. and that's when my historian friends were just really, really laughing, but i found it. i went through the minutes and i when, ofe record of his entrance, of his graduation, and then 30 years later of his admission to the college as a member of the college, which is like being, like having a professional membership.
the young men who graduated with him, there were four of them. they graduated in april 1844. in 1844,became members and it took my great-grandfather until the 1870's to become a member. after that, i said that is enough. you have some really wonderful information about the 1840's and your family in the 1850's, so i am really wondering about the 1860's and the civil war and what happened with your family then. if you have any scraps. >> i do. i do. . have a great story at the time of the draft, i'm going to talk about the draft, at the time of the draft, the week of july 13, 18 63, it is possible that once again the black elite thought that class
would trump race and they would be safe, and they weren't. they were attacked. their homes were destroyed as if they were, just because they were black, so the big story is that of the colored orphan asylum, and the way in which it was run by white women and the scene then as the illegitimate act on the part of white the net let women toward undeserving black children. that was destroyed. the home of william powell was destroyed. albra lyons was destroyed. there is an account of the three-part assault on their home, and the third assault was successful and it was burned to the ground.
in williamson's papers, i came across a note, and it is down there. i won't bother to read it. lineseant rights to mrs. and says, i'm going to try and lyons, and said i will try to help you. i do not know what today will bring. me to be at the drugstore at at the drugstore at 3:00 p.m. and i will conduct you to safety. so the alliance and fellow quite philips white pharmacy was right around the corner and i speculate that is the pharmacy it is amazing the sergeant thought that was a safe enough place to take the family.
so i started to read through the obituaries and i found the story of the preservation of the pharmacy. 1847 at the corner he stayed there until his death and established deep roots and the neighborhood. the neighborhood when he went in, he was mixed, as time went on, it became more and more irish, and poor irish. and according to all of the accounts i read it, he was a good neighbor. he made up their medications for them and sold them their medications. not have any money coming he gave away medications for free. he gave away money and clothes. so when the draft riots happened, they did not want to drugstore demolished. they did not want to see philip white harmed. the new york times reprints a dialogue and who knows how
accurate it is when the businessman of the neighborhood, the area was called the swamp , and the businessmen of the swamps all was happening and said, you need to run away. assaid, no, i don't, because many neighbors i have who will protect me, and the drugstore was not disturbed. that was a real goose bump moment. yes? >> hi. i am shannon. wondering what made you write about your history, your family tree. i have been trying to do research of my own, and i find it difficult to find things that way pasthe 1800s, go the 1800s, so i was wondering if you could give me any advice and tell me how did you find yours
exactly? >> you have to have the passion. it took me a 11 years. passion,to have the ,he drive, the determination the willingness to look and find nothing, then all of a sudden find something. there are so many ways i could have written a history of black new yorkers in the 19th century, but it was to encourage people to go and look for their family histories. lucky, youyou are so have a family to write about. one of the things i wanted to do .as encourage people to go try maybe i was lucky because i found enough material about them, but i wish my forefather
had been george downing. i would have found a lot more material on them, so you take that scrap, and you try to import or on the scrap without going into fiction , but to reallyes look around and get the scrap context. that is the way you have to do it, but don't give up. don't give up. >> hi. we have discovered an underground railroad site in our neighborhood. so instead of feeling satisfied, that has made my cochair and i even more obsessed with research
. so i recognize the phrase, looking for a needle in a haystack. am i coming to a question? what sources have you turn to? have you started research? of theochair did a lot research on the quaker abolitionist who lived in the building that was destroyed during the draft riots, but then i kept researching for more letters from the gibbons family and was sent with a hot tip by one historian who said go look at columbia university. i went up there and found a record of fugitives 1855 by gay.y howard's ga that sent me off on to a real search because i found the most
extraordinary thing. moore was married to her husband jacob in the previous -- and now i try to find zero more. >[laughter] >> i did find your list and in new haven, connecticut, but that was taken me two years to find that. >> i will go back to the schomburg, but there is one staff member who terrified me and was so mean. we'll get my courage to go back. >> i have had experience with that two. [laughter] >> i will talk to you later. [laughter] >> and give you the name of
somebody who is really, really wonderful and who will help you and i just saw her a couple of nights ago. >> i just bought your book. [laughter] >> let me tell you that there is the african-american vigilance society, so you can look around for that, david ruggles is one name to research. >> i do have a question. have you heard of louis napoleon? i'm trying to find him because he helped to rescue this woman, and he was working with sidney ard gay, who is the editor and secretary of the antislavery society. now i know enough. >> charles ray and his daughter put out a memoir of his life
after he died in 1886 this is at the schomburg. you can look at that because he was also a member of the vigilance society. i do not do very much with that because my family, i could not find any relationship between that and my family. i couldn't start talking about everything. my editors are already going nuts with the length of the book. i would say david ruggles, what and charles ray's memoir. what about henry ward beecher? >> i just started to scratch the surface with that. louis napoleon worked with him too. afternoonsbring in the brooklyn historical society as helpful as they were i was searching in the wrong collection. >> that has happened to me too.
a woman named -- >> i have to stop. >> we can talk and i will give you names later. >> ok. [applause] announcer: on history bookshelf, here from the best-known history writers of the past decade. of our watch any programs at any time if you visit our website c-span.org/history. you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. tonight on lectures in history, university of notre dame professor on mid 20th century of american oil interests. here is a preview. again the two
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