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Abolitionist Place

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (National Historic Landmark)

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Abolitionist Place is located in Downtown Brooklyn on Duffield Street between Fulton Mall and MetroTech. Duffield Street contains seven buildings that are said to have been associated with the Underground Railroad. It was renamed Abolitionist Place in September of 2007 in honor of those who took a stand against slavery. Luckily, Joy Chatel, the owner of 227 Duffield, is adamant about preserving this Civil Rights landmark.

Home of Thomas Truesdell and Harriet-Lee Truesdell

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227 Duffield Street was once home to abolitionists Thomas Truesdell and Harriet-Lee Truesdell. Thomas Truesdell worked for William Lloyd Garrison, an American reformer who published the first abolitionist newspaper. Harriet-Lee Truesdell worked as an officer in a woman's antislavery society. Their home and other homes on the block are believed to have been stops on the Underground Railroad (a network of supporters and safe houses throughout the North that helped many slaves flee the South before and during the Civil War.)

Former tenants of the home have reported findings of old stoves and iron cauldrons there, leading the current tenants to believe that the sub-basements of these houses served as feeding stations for escaped slaves passing through Brooklyn.

The area around Duffield Street is also rich in history. Polytechnic University's student center is located two blocks from Duffield Street. In 1860, the center was the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, Brooklyn's first African-American church, as well as an abolitionist site. Then, just ten minutes from Duffield Street, Plymouth Church can be found. Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass all attended this church. It is well known for its connection to the Underground Railroad. In fact, the tunnels beneath the homes on Duffield Street were believed to have led to this church. 

Surrounded by luxury condos and hotels, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Department of City Planning announced in 2004 that they wanted to tear down the homes on Duffield Street as part of an economic development plan for downtown Brooklyn. Replacing many of the buildings on the street with new hotels, underground parking, and a park. The owners of these homes and local supporters fought against the city. Pressuring the Bloomberg Administration to honor the efforts of abolitionists in the nineteenth century. 

Many historians have studied the site and concluded that not only did the site witness Abolitionist activity, but it also provides insight into underground slave safe-houses. However, there was still dispute over whether or not the small homes were actually linked to the Underground Railroad. Therefore, the city hired consultants to investigate. Their response sparked anger among locals and abolitionists who fought back. Eventually, the city agreed to reconsider their plans and build without affecting the homes on Duffield. 

Today, 227 Abolitionist Place no longer faces threats of being demolished. However, it does still face many challenges such as raising money and gaining support to turn the home into a small museum and cultural center. The preservation of historical sites like this will provide more education on the history of the United States as the country moves forward. 

Sources

Strausbaugh, John. "On the Trail of Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad." New York Times. 10/12/07. Accessed Web, 6/15/17. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/arts/12expl.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0.

Furman, Robert. "History on Duffield Street." New York The Sun. 6/20/07. Accessed Web, 6/15/17. http://www.nysun.com/opinion/history-on-duffield-street/56955/.

Rebhorn, Emma. "The Case Of The Duffield Street Homes." The Brooklyn Rail. 9/4/07. Accessed Web, 6/15/17. http://brooklynrail.org/2007/09/local/the-case-of-the-duffield-street-homes.

"Downtown BK Underground Railroad Soap Opera Continues." Curbed New York. 11/14/08. Accessed Web, 6/15/17. https://ny.curbed.com/2008/11/14/10553802/downtown-bk-underground-railroad-soap-opera-continues.


Address
277 Duffield Street
Brooklyn , NY 11201
Hours
24 Hours
Tags
  • African American History
  • Railroads and Transportation
This location was created on 2015-11-10 by Nicola Lai, Stuyvesant High School; Instructed by Anthony Valentin.   It was last updated on 2017-06-15 by Gavin Thagard .

This entry has been viewed 1456 times within the past year


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