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understanding of how everyday people
advanced anti-slavery ideals,
and create your own anti-slavery


It Happened in Brooklyn



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Click on the titles on the right for additional information.
Drag the circles to their proper locations on the map.

Havemeyer, Townsend & Co. Sugar Refinery
Havemeyer,Townsend & Co. Sugar Refinery opened on the Williamsburg Waterfront in 1856. Sugar was the largest luxury commodity to emerge from Brooklyn that relied on the labor of enslaved people.

Freeman Murrows

Freeman Murrows, an inventor, secured a patent for his “adjustable brush” for whitewashing and painting varnish in 1854. He is one of Brooklyn’s many African- American business owners that had to overcome many social, political, and economic obstacles to become a successful entrepreneur.

Turn Verein Hall

During the New York City Draft riots, African-Americans sought refuge at Turn Verein Hall, protected by German immigrants who were allied with antislavery Republicans.

James Hamlet

Williamsburg resident, James Hamlet, was kidnapped and accused of being a fugitive who ran away from his enslaver Mary Brown in Baltimore. Manhattan and Brooklyn abolitionists rallied together to raise the $800 needed for Hamlet’s release.

The Freedman’s Bureau

After the Civil War, Congress established the Freedman’s Bureau.The Brooklyn Branch, which opened in 1866, assists, educates, and aids free people living in Brooklyn.

Peter Croger

Peter Croger, one of the founders and trustees of the first African-American church in Brooklyn, established a private day school for African- American children and adults his home near James Street.

Anna Maria Weems

Anna Maria Weems, a fugitive from Maryland who was disguised a man during her escape, arrived at the home of Lewis Tappan on her way to Canada, a well- known abolitionist. Her escape was funded by an international anti- slavery network across Britain and the United States.

African Methodist Church

By the end of the 19th century, Brooklyn had a number of independent black churches, such as the African Methodist Church, located on High Street. These churches were central to the lives of ordinary people not only as a place of worship, but as a space for education initiatives, political protests, temperance meetings, and assisting fugitive slaves who arrived in Brooklyn.

Plymouth Church Hall

Plymouth Church’s first pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, gained a formidable reputation as an emancipator. By the late 1850’s Beecher’s fundraising events included mock “auctions,” during which his congregation purchased the freedom of real slaves.


Local activists and land investors established Weeksville, one of New York’s earliest and most successful free black communities. By owning land, many Weeksville residents become full citizens with voting rights. Weeksville residents established several African American institutions, including churches, schools, and newspapers.

Frederick Douglass

During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Montague Street. He spoke to a packed house about political and social rights for people of African descent.

James Pennington

Born enslaved in Maryland, James Pennington legally emancipated himself in 1851. He later moved to Brooklyn and became central to the anti-slavery movement, gaining an international reputation for his work with the American Missionary Society and his public speaking.

The Atlantic Dock Company

The Atlantic Dock Company, established in 1840 by local developer Daniel Richards, transformed Brooklyn’s waterfront into a thriving maritime hub. Many of the warehouse and shipping industries housed here had ties to slave economy.

Lorillard and Watson Tobacco Factories

On August 4, 1862 a riot ensued at the Lorillard and Watson Tobacco Factories. A mob of Irish immigrants, discontented about job competition from free blacks, attacked the Lorillard and Watson Tobacco Factories. The riots revealed the level of racial tension and resentment between these two exploited groups.

John Baxter

John Baxter was born in Ireland in 1765 and was a long term resident of Flatlands, Kings County where he worked as a farmer. His journals reveal how important slavery was to Brooklyn society during the 19th century.
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In pursuit of Freedom

Drag each of the five
paths to freedom below to
its definition on the right.

The legal process of becoming free. The most common method was through a slave owners will upon his/her death. This route often failed because the will was contested by heirs or circumvented by lawyers and lawmakers.
The establishment of an informal, self-reliant anti-slavery network, some members of the black community purchased their own freedom, with the intention of emancipation.
Represented one of the everyday acts enslaved people engaged in to resist their bondage. A risky road to freedom, slaveholders regularly placed advertisements for the capture of “runaways” in local newspapers.
From the early 1800s on, African-Americans built strong communities with the intention of combating slavery and its legacy.
A group of political reformers, known as abolitionists and anti-slavery activists, worked together to agitate for the end of slavery. These men and women, both black and white, advocated for the immediate emancipation of all enslaved people.

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Create Your own Anti-Slavery Poem

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