Remembering Brooklyn Abolitionist Ties

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Black history month is here and with it a long list of programs and events.

So, of course, I am not going to miss out.

My first event was the Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Frank Decker, Author of “Brooklyn Plymouth Church in the Civil War Era: A Ministry of Freedom,” and Lois Rosebrooks, who assisted Decker, spoke on the book.

At 75 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, stands Plymouth Church at its original location from 1847.

Decker explained how Plymouth Church under the leadership of Henry Ward Beecher, stood behind abolitionist and the abolition movement.

Plymouth had major support from its congregation, like Member Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

This breakthrough novel on slavery explain the conditions of the enslaved and helped to garner support.

The church’s involvement in the underground railroad, gain Plymouth the name, “Grand Central Depot.”

Escaped slaves went to Canada (where it was illegal to return salves) and to Northern states like New York, and to Brooklyn.

Between 1860-1865, Brooklyn was the third largest city in the US.

Plymouth Church basement hid many fugitives (escaped slaves).

Not to say that slavery sympathizers did not have their way as well. Escaped slaves risk being kidnapped in the North.

So all was not well in Brooklyn or the rest of the North. (As seen in the picture below.) As the popular film 12 Years a Slave testifies to.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

Brooklyn’s diverse population also brought its own problems. As the civil war raged, tension grew between the marginalized groups in Brooklyn,

That is, the Irish and Africans.

The tensions lead to violence, like the Tobacco Factory Riots in Brooklyn in August 1862 and the Draft Riots in Manhattan in July 1863.

Then Union victory came in 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, followed by the reconstruction period.

There is much to learn about that period, and to what I like to say, deconstruct how it all went down.

The Historical Society throughout February will host an exhibit and review short films on civil rights and slavery, in an attempt to do just that.

So if you can try to attend a few.

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