The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) Black History Matters program series offers daily brief “crash courses” in American history, addressing key events and topics in our history that are lesser known or whose implications are not usually understood.
The program began on February 1st, with Victoria Basulto on Monday, February 1st. Basulto, a Colgate University Senior and a Colgate Upstate Institute intern working with NAHOF, described the purpose of Black History Matters and explain how people can (virtually) attend the free presentations.
The Tuesday, February 2nd program, The Beginning: 1619 – 1712 examines the origins of slavery in the United States in 1619. In this presentation, Basulto will cover the arrival of the ship the White Lion which brought the first Africans to the English colony of Virginia. She will explore the ways in which the institution of slavery was antithetical to the ideals of representation and freedom with which the first colonist sought to establish their new government. Lastly, she will trace the evolution of slavery in the English colonies and the mounting resistance by the enslaved up until the 1712 slave revolts in New York City.
Wednesday, February 3rd will feature Triumph of the Human Spirit. In 1991, the remains of more than 400 African slaves were excavated during the construction of a federal building in New York City’s Foley Square financial district. Following an extensive archeological study, Dr. Lorenzo Pace was commissioned to create a monument paying homage to the African slaves originally buried on that site in the 1700s. Pace created Triumph of the Human Spirit, a large sculpture that includes a replica of a lock that shackled Pace’s great, great grandfather. Pace is an artist, author, storyteller, performer, and lecturer. His doctorate is in art education, and he is the author of four children’s books on Black American History.
On Thursday, February 4th Timothy McLaughlin PhD will give a lecture on the Survival of the Gullah Geeche Culture. The Gullah Geechee of coastal South Carolina and Georgia believe that understanding the past is essential to planning for the future. These people were purchased by white planters for their rice growing expertise. They struggled to survive enslavement and Jim Crow segregation. They are also a unique example of Black cultural continuity expressed in their language, music, cultural beliefs, and material culture. This lecture by McLaughlin continues into the present day, identifying current threats to cultural survival. McLaughlin served as Professor of History and Dean at Cazenovia College. His favorite course, Race, Rights, and Resistance, was a seminar on Black history from the fight to end slavery to the ongoing struggle for equality within contemporary American society. Dr. McLaughlin is Vice president of the NAHOF Cabinet of Freedom.
Victoria Basulto will continue the history of slavery in New York with 1827: Abolition of Slavery in New York State on Friday, February 5th. With the bicentennial of New York State’s abolition of slavery approaching in 2027, New Yorkers need to examine the state’s role in slavery even after the March 31, 1817 action by the legislature setting July 4th, 1827 as the end of slavery in the state. The new regulations following the 1799 gradual abolition law, were complex according to birth years, sex, and extension of service years. The enslaved were not all emancipated.
The Saturday, February 6th program, The Bloodhound Law: The Hated 1850 Fugitive Slave Law will present a review of the historical conditions that led to the passage of this hated law, what it legally required, and its effect on the antislavery movement. Norman K. Dann PhD will describe specific protests against the law and provide examples of the atrocities of the execution of the law. Dann is professor emeritus Social Sciences, Morrisville State College, Morrisville. He is a researcher and biographer of Gerrit Smith, and the head docent at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark. The author of nine books on the Gerrit and Ann Smith family and their role in the human rights movement, Dann is a founder and Cabinet of Freedom emerita of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.
The series will end on Sunday, February 7th, with The Christiana Resistance of 1851: Prelude to the Civil War. The Christiana Resistance took place at Christiana, Pennsylvania on September 11th, 1851 when Edward Gorsuch, a slave owner from Maryland, attempted to recapture several runaways under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 at the house of William Parker, himself once enslaved. Parker and the freedom seekers engaged in a fight with the Gorsuch posse. The Christiana Resistance, as Frederick Douglass said, proved that “fugitive themselves” were determined to destroy the Fugitive Slave Act. What happened at Christiana was, like John Brown’s raid upon Harpers Ferry, a prelude to the Civil War. The presenter, Milton C. Sernett PhD, is professor emeritus Syracuse University African American studies and history, author of several books on abolition and the Underground Railroad, a popular presenter, and a founder and member of the NAHOF Cabinet of Freedom.
These programs will be available at 2 pm each day. For more information and to access daily releases of the Black History Matters programs visit the National Abolition Hall Of Fame website.