New York Historical Society Presentation

February is Black History month.  Students had a golden opportunity to gain some new perspectives on the gains and losses that played out among the freed slaves in the years of Reconstruction, thanks to an eye-opening presentation made by Lilliana Oliveira of the New York Historical Society.  She had students look at posters and photographs from the time period to better understand the various attitudes different groups in the U.S. had toward the freed slave community.

Below are some observations made by some of 9th grade students present for this activity.

I learned that many former slaves were able to migrate north, and that there were even ads to encourage it.  I knew that they  migrated for a better life, but I didn’t know that it was encouraged.         –Tea

The guest speaker explained how normal lynchings became, despite being illegal.  The high casualty rates surprised me, even though I was aware that this was an issue.        -Paz

African-Americans used a lot of techniques to stand up for themselves as they staged moving protests, such as the Silent March in New York, and they portrayed themselves as very civilized and educated in photos.  The goal was to improve the African-American image.        -Sonja

I thought that the ways in which African-Americans combatted the negative sterotypes that surrounded them was really interesting.  For example, Frederick Douglas used photography as a tool to normalize the African-Americans image, and show that they were just as intelligent and serious as anyone else –  which was in contrast to the negative way Jim Crow portrayed them.           -Isabel

The guest speaker discussed the loophole in the 13th Amendment, allowing for the continued slavery of African-Americans, long after it was outlawed.  The 13th Amendment was not sufficient, as it allowed for Blacks incarcerated for petty crimes, to be forced into grueling labor.              -Joel