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400 Years of Inequality: Slavery, Race, and Our Unresolved History

Brooklyn Historical Society joins institutions from across the country to shine a spotlight on four centuries of our nation’s unresolved legacy of slavery.

In 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans landed in Jamestown, its human cargo sold into bondage. In this immersive series of reflection, analysis and discussion, BHS explores the ensuing history of slavery in the United States and its ramifications today, 400 years later. With this special series we hope to reframe the telling of America’s story of inequality in order to shape a more complete narrative for the future.

400 Years of Inequality includes programs for adults, families, and educators, as well as a featured selection of books in our Gift Shop on Pierrepont Street.

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In 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans landed in Jamestown, its human cargo sold into bondage. In this immersive series of reflection, analysis and discussion, BHS explores the ensuing history of slavery in the United States and its ramifications today, 400 years later. With this special series we hope to reframe the telling of America’s story of inequality in order to shape a more complete narrative for the future.

400 Years of Inequality includes programs for adults, families, and educators, as well as a featured selection of books in our Gift Shop on Pierrepont Street.

Public Programs at BHS on Pierrepont Street

Family Program

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Color Between the Lines Performance and Art Activity

Sun, Oct 20, 10:30 am & 11:30 am

Join us for a family-friendly adaptation of Irondale Ensemble Project’s Color Between the Lines. This show uses song and story to look at oft-forgotten Brooklyn abolitionists who fought to free enslaved Africans. Each 25 minute performance is followed by a hands-on, storytelling art activity.

Color Between the Lines was originally produced by Irondale Theater Ensemble in 2012, as part the In Pursuit of Freedom Project, a collaboration with Brooklyn Historical Society and Weeksville Heritage Center.

Professional Development for Educators

Educators are invited to join us for two professional development workshops presented by Brooklyn Historical Society’s education department and Facing History and Ourselves. Brooklyn Historical Society and Facing History and Ourselves are approved providers of NYS CTLE credits. Participating teachers will receive 2 hours of CTLE credit for each workshop.

Mapping Freedom and Slavery: Brooklyn Abolitionists

Wed, Oct 2, 4:00 pm

Presented by Brooklyn Historical Society Education Department

Today many Brooklynites underestimate the extent of Brooklyn’s slave-holding past, but historians who study nineteenth century New York have labeled Kings County a “slaveholding capital.”  Brooklyn had the largest concentration of enslaved people of any county in New York State. Its slaveholding percentages exceeded those of South Carolina.

Today those slave-holders’ names are immortalized in the very streets that Brooklynites walk. Hicks, Remsen, Boerum, Sands, Nostrand, Bergen – each of these streets bears the name of a slaveholding family from Brooklyn’s past. But what of those Brooklynites who engaged in abolitionist activities? How are their legacies memorialized today?

This session uses historical maps, documents, and census records to explore freedom and slavery in nineteenth century Brooklyn, uncovering the names of slave-holders in the borough, and those of the individuals who fought for freedom.

Brooklyn Historical Society is an approved provider of NYS CTLE credits. Participating teachers will receive 2 hours of CTLE credit.

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Mapping Freedom and Slavery: Brooklyn Abolitionists

Wed, Oct 2, 4:00 pm

Presented by Brooklyn Historical Society Education Department

Today many Brooklynites underestimate the extent of Brooklyn’s slave-holding past, but historians who study nineteenth century New York have labeled Kings County a “slaveholding capital.”  Brooklyn had the largest concentration of enslaved people of any county in New York State. Its slaveholding percentages exceeded those of South Carolina.

Today those slave-holders’ names are immortalized in the very streets that Brooklynites walk. Hicks, Remsen, Boerum, Sands, Nostrand, Bergen – each of these streets bears the name of a slaveholding family from Brooklyn’s past. But what of those Brooklynites who engaged in abolitionist activities? How are their legacies memorialized today?

This session uses historical maps, documents, and census records to explore freedom and slavery in nineteenth century Brooklyn, uncovering the names of slave-holders in the borough, and those of the individuals who fought for freedom.

Brooklyn Historical Society is an approved provider of NYS CTLE credits. Participating teachers will receive 2 hours of CTLE credit.

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The Legacy of Reconstruction: Monuments and Public Memory

Wed, Oct 16, 4:00 pm

Presented by Facing History and Ourselves

In 1965 James Baldwin wrote, “the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”  Baldwin’s powerful reminder of history’s lasting and daily impacts raises particular questions when history takes the form of memorials and monuments in our communities.

How do societies decide which history to remember — and what form that memory should take?  How can we empower students to engage with Reconstruction memorials critically, through a lens of historical knowledge and ethical reflection?

This session will use resources from Facing History and Ourselves’ case study The Reconstruction Era: Fragility of Democracy to investigate how schools can engage with the monument debate that continues to impact communities across the country.  We will model discussion strategies that support an analysis of historical perspectives and provide space for students’ emotional reactions.

Facing History and Ourselves is an approved provider of NYS CTLE credits. Participating teachers will receive 2 hours of CTLE credit.

Bring the Conversations Home: What to Read

Throughout the month of October, Brooklyn Historical Society’s Pierrepont Street shop offers a special selection of books related to race and history. Peruse them during open hours, and take 10% off their price.

Thanks to our funders

This series is made possible through the generous support of Joanne Witty and Eugene Keilin, Sylvia and Byron Lewis, Margaret Seiler and Hovey Brock, Alexandra Bowie and Daniel Richman, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, The Scherman Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President’s Grant Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and donors to BHS’s Race and History Fund.

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Thanks to our programming partners

BHS is proud to partner with the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Coming to the Table, Facing History and Ourselves, the New School’s 400 Years of Inequality initiative, the Social Science Research Council, and the Vera Institute of Justice.