The Story of “Evacuation Day”

A century after the end of the War for Independence, New Yorkers continued to celebrate a holiday known as “Evacuation Day,” commemorating the leaving of the last British troops from New York City on November 25, 1783. It marked the end of a seven-year occupation by the British army who used the city as the headquarters for its North American operations during the war. But it also marked the beginning of a holiday that would be enthusiastically celebrated by New Yorkers for a century to come. On this anniversary, I offer the following narrative account of a day that played a large role in the city’s historical memory of the Revolution for more than a century, but was eventually displaced when it became incompatible with contemporary circumstances. Continue reading

Guest Post: Seneca Village Memory: The Problem of Forgetting

Today’s guest post comes from Alexander Manevitz (@historicities), a Ph.D. candidate in History at New York University.

Detail from Egbert Viele’s 1856 topographical survey of the area to become Central Park, which shows some of the buildings and gardens of Seneca Village just before its destruction. When I started my doctoral program, “memory studies” struck me as more of a trend than a field. Something everyone talked about doing but couldn’t really define. After all, isn’t all history sort of a study of memories and how they’re made and used? Well, as with all things trendy, I was late to the party.[1] My first year of graduate school, I read Michele-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and David Blight’s Race and Reunion within a few weeks of one another, and I realized how wrong I’d been, and my interest has only grown from there.[2] I have since turned to questions of memory and amnesia in my own scholarship.

My work focuses on Seneca Village, a once-vibrant community in upper Manhattan where community activism and urban development collided when the city evicted the residents to clear land for Central Park in 1857. Despite its significant role in the development of African-American social activism in the early republic and its place in relation to one of the young nation’s largest urban development projects, Seneca Village has been almost entirely forgotten in popular and scholarly memory.[3]

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Looking for “a World of Love”: Jonathan Edwards in the Big City

nyc1728Jonathan Edwards is so strongly identified with Connecticut and Massachusetts that it’s easy to overlook where his pastoral ministry began: near the waterfront of New York City. In 1722, Edwards took a temporary position as the minister to a small Presbyterian congregation in Manhattan. He was about nineteen years old.

Edwards’s months in New York shaped him in at least two ways. First, according to his own account, Edwards developed a stronger desire for personal holiness. In New York, he wished increasingly to be “in everything a complete Christian.” Second, he grew in missionary zeal. Holding long religious conversations with his host family (who were immigrants from England) and observing life in the Atlantic port, he came to a more global awareness of the faith. He put it this way:

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Guest Post: The Problem of Loyalism before the American Revolution

Today’s guest poster is Christopher Minty, a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling. His dissertation focuses on Loyalists in New York. 

Patriots and Loyalists

Over the past four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a group of colonists who would go on to become Loyalists in the American Revolution. My dissertation examines 9,341 future Loyalists during the imperial crisis, 1763–1775, in New York and, essentially, tries to follow their collective paths to either voluntarily signing their name to a declaration, petition and/or subscription list affirming their continued allegiance to the prevailing political order or taking the oath of allegiance. Continue reading

Guest Post: Locating Gender in the Stacks

Today’s guest poster is Aaron M. Brunmeier, a PhD student focusing on early American and Atlantic world history at Loyola University Chicago. Aaron is currently finishing up his role as the new media assistant for Common-place Journal and will work next on an AHRC-funded project on Atlantic world library history.

Network analysis for the 11 women and all the texts they borrowed from the NYSL from 1789 to 1792.

Network analysis for the 11 women and all the texts they borrowed from the NYSL from 1789 to 1792.

I must confess that when it comes to digital history, I am very much a novice. My introduction into this brave new world occurred last semester in Dr. Kyle Roberts’ undergraduate digital history class that I was able to take for grad credit at Loyola University Chicago. The end goal of the course was to create our own collaborative digital history project. I teamed up with two smart, hardworking, and creative undergrads whose backgrounds weren’t even in history and what we produced was Gender in the Stacks (which I should point out is currently a prototype and definitely a work-in-progress). Continue reading

Early America, with a Brooklyn Accent

Historic reenactors at Lefferts House, Prospect Park (1938)

Last week, we asked how digital projects are transforming our study of early American life and culture. Here’s the first in a series of interviews with historians who tell us what worked, how digital tools shaped the narrative, and where they want to go next on the digital frontier. This week, we asked the Brooklyn Historical Society for a peek at the making of a special digital exhibit on the Lefferts family of New York. As Breuckelen becomes Brooklyn, readers can link to local sites where the Lefferts family lived and worked, including the Lefferts Historic Homestead in Prospect Park (shown here: Historical re-enactors gathering on the front steps in 1938). The Leffertses were influential landowners, politicians, historians, financiers—and also one of the county’s biggest slaveholding families. Their letters, farm accounts, and recipe books offer a new and very personal window on New York’s development.Our thanks to Jacob Nadal, the Director of Library and Archives, and Julie Golia, Public Historian and Curator, who kindly took our questions on bringing nearly four centuries of Brooklyn to digital life. Continue reading