New York was a national center for abolitionism, where the NAACP was created and the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. Sites across the state bring this heritage to life for lovers of justice and history.
The homes of nationally famous abolitionists, from John Brown to Gerrit Smith, are ready to be toured, as is the home of the Underground Railroad's most famous "conductor," Harriet Tubman. Museums explore the life of Frederick Douglas , and the National Abolition Hall of Fame remains of those who fought for equality.
Below are ideas to help you get started on your Civil Rights Path Through History!
- The Joseph Lloyd Manor House in Lloyd Harbor was the home of Jupiter Hammon, a slave who became the first published black poet. Today, the colonial building is furnished with its 1793 inventory, and features interpretive exhibits, a formal garden and a spectacular 2.5 acre setting that overlooks Lloyd Harbor.
- The King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens, preserves the historic home of Rufus King, an outspoken opponent of slavery who was a member of the Continental Congress, a framer and signer of the Constitution and one of the first senators from New York State. King delivered two of the most radical and eloquent anti-slavery speeches heard in the Senate before the Civil War, and his eldest son, Governor John Alsop King, continued the family's work to restrict slavery's expansion.
- During the 19th century the village of Weeksville was a vibrant and independent free African American co
mmunity. The settlement was named for James Weeks, one member of a group of African American investors who acquired the property in 1838 to create an intentional land-owning community. Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn is the steward for three remaining historic houses, which date to the 19th century, and emphasizes Weeksville's history of sanctuary, refuge, independence, self-sufficiency, self-determination, activism and their contemporary relevance.
- From about the 1690s until 1794, both free and enslaved Africans were buried at the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, the first National Monument dedicated to Africans of early New York and Americans of African descent. The story of how this site was lost to history due to landfill and development, and then rediscovered and preserved in 1991 is a civil rights story unto itself.
- The birthplace of the modern gay rights movement was on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Inn is where LGBT patrons in June 1969 stood up against the police raids that they were regularly subjected to, and it still operates as a local gay bar. Christopher Park across the way commemorates the rebellion with the Gay Liberation Monument.
- Civil rights history can be found on countless blocks across Harlem. For example, the Abyssinian Baptist Church was the first African-American Baptist Church in New York State, founded
in 1808 when a group of African-Americans and Ethiopian sea merchants left a racially segregated church in lower Manhattan to start their own congregation. Visitors can see the current Gothic and Tudor church, which has served as an important site for religious music in the Harlem Renaissance and remains a center of the Harlem gospel tradition.
- The ongoing Activist New York exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan explores the drama of social activism in New York City from the 17th century right up to the present. Using artifacts, photographs, audio and visual presentations, as well as interactive components that exhibits presents the passions and conflicts that underlie the city's history of agitation on issues as diverse as historic preservation, civil rights, wages, sexual orientation and religious freedom.
- The carriage house, manor house and visitor center at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye show the history of the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and New York's only native Founding Father, who was an abolitionist, early advocate of emancipation and founder of the first African Free School, even though he owned slaves himself. The 62-acre John Jay Homestead Historic Site in Katonah features the 24-room Federal-style mansion where Jay moved his family when he left public life in 1801, after having served as president of the Continental Congress and governor of New York.
- Just down the road from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site and Presidential Library and Museum, the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park - the only such site dedicated to a first lady - features her modest Val-Kill home, and explores her history championing women's rights, civil rights, workers rights and universal human rights.
- The life and history of escaped slave, James F. Brown, is explored at Mount Gulian Historic Site in Fishkill, where he worked and kept a detailed journal from 1829-1866, one of the very few written records of daily life in the 19th century as experience by an African-American man in the North. Guided tours are available of the reconstructed 18th century Dutch house an
d its formal gardens.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Jay Heritage Center
John Jay Homestead Historic Site
Mount Gulian Historic Site
Find other exciting attractions in the Catskill region and Hudson Valley region.
- Find out about free black man Solomon Northup at the Old Fort House Museum in Fort Edward. Northup was drugged and sold into slavery before being freed, returning home to Washington County and writing "Twelve Years A Slave," a thoroughly researched book considered to be one of the mos
t important narratives on slavery.
- Visit the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm to see a multimedia production, local artifacts such as a leg iron and other poignant exhibits portraying the stories of fugitives from slavery who passed through the region on their way to Canada.
- At the John Brown Farm in Lake Placid, see the home and gravesite of the ardent abolitionist best known for his raid on Harpers Ferry and the famous folk song that immortalized his death.
- Honor ant
islavery abolitionists, their work to end slavery and the legacy of their struggle at the National Abolition Hall of Fame in Peterboro where the NYS Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1835.
- The nearby Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro offers exhibits, tours, a heritage mercantile and multiple historic structures connected to the man considered to be the most powerful 19th century abolitionist in the nation who provided freedom, safe haven, support and employment for hundreds of former sla
- At the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home in Fayetteville, you can visit this stop on the Underground Railroad and explore the house where this abolitionist and co-leader of the early women's rights movement lived and worked for 44 years.
- At the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, learn how this conductor on the Underground Railroad served as a spy behind enemy lines during the Civil War and came to be known as the Moses of Her People. Also, visit her gravesite in nearby Fort Hill Cemetery.
- The frequent intersection between the fights for racial equality and women's rights can be seen dramatically at the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester. A statue showing the woman's suffrage leader with abolitionist Frederick Douglas stands adjacent to the property.
- Learn about Frederick Douglas in the city that was his home at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The interactive "Flight to Freedom" exhibit tells the story of this leading abolitionist as well as former enslaved Africans who fought for freedom, including little Imani, a girl who escapes north with her family.
Fort Hill Cemetery
Harriet Tubman Home
Matilda Joslyn Gage Home
National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Find other exciting attractions in the Finger Lakes region.
- Buffalo's esteemed place in the struggle for African-American equality, for example being the birthplace of what would become the NAACP, is captured in sites like the Michigan Baptist Church -- an important underground railroad stop and part of the Michigan Street Preservation District -- and the Nash House Museum, home of the influential pastor and leader.
- The Colored Musician Club Museum in Buffalo highlights the history of the oldest continuously run African American musicians club in the US. With an environment where people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds could come together over a mutual love of jazz, the club provided strength and hope to Buffalo's African American community since its formation in 1935.. The museum's interactive exhibits share the stories of the jazz legends who performed there - from Ella Fitzgerald to Dizzy Gillespie - and the legacy they left behind.
- The Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown tells the story of the country lawyer who went on to fight for justice, fairness and human decency as solicitor general, U.S. attorney, U.S. Supreme Court justice and perhaps most notably as the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Trials.