The infrastucture of early Brooklyn was built by African slaves.
This year, the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, the Weeksville Heritage Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the Irondale Ensemble Project in Fort Greene have teamed up to rediscover and represent Brooklyn's Black history, particularly the abolitionist period.
By next fall, each will open a permanent exhibit, as part of a joint project called "In Pursuit Of Freedom", highlighting Brooklyn's prominence in the 19th century struggle to end Black slavery in America.
As part of the project, twenty historical markers will be placed at abolitionist sites in Brooklyn, including the former African cemetery in New Lots, now Schenk Park, a playground next to the New Lots Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library; and the former Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, now the admissions center at Brooklyn Polytechnic at Metrotech.
Ironically, Schenk Park was named for one of Brooklyn's biggest slaveholding families. A plaque in the park commemorating the family's contributions to Brooklyn history fails to mention those of the enslaved Africans who lived there and built the roads and houses.
The landmarked Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal has a long, rich history as an abolitionist church.
Incorporated in 1818 by Black parishioners who left the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn due to racial bias, Bridge Street AWME Church met at 309 Bridge Street from 1854 to 1938.
Since then, it has met at 277 Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Among Bridge Street AWME's early contributions were an African Free School and a role in establishing the Weeksville community, which became an important refuge for runaway slaves and for Blacks fleeing the 1863 Draft Riots in New York.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed at a three-day "celebration of freedom" at Bridge Street AWME from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863.
On the program were African-American historian and activist William Wells Brown and abolitionist Theodore Tilton, a newspaper editor affiliated with Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn Heights, which played a pivotal role in the fight for emancipation. The abolitionist touchstone Uncle Tom's Cabin was written by Rev. Beecher's sister, Harriett Beecher Stowe.
The month after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed at Bridge Street AWME, Frederick Douglass spoke there, launching a campaign to recruit Black soldiers for the Union army.
In 1865, Harriet Tubman gave a talk at Bridge Street about the Underground Railroad and her experiences as a Union Army scout and nurse.
The Huffpost article.