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NY Historical Society Examines The History Of Slavery In The City

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The museum exhibit "Slavery In New York" opened last month, and already a record number of visitors have learned about a once hidden fact about our city. NY1's Dean Meminger takes a look at the exhibition in the following report.

Most people didn't grow up learning about the role of slavery in the city, but adults and children are now flocking to the New York Historical Society to learn more.

What goes through people’s mind when they find out there were slaves right here in New York City?

“Like, how can that be? I'm living where slaves were,” says young Queens resident Kayne Nau.

The exhibit has become a major attraction for school trips. From first grade through college, students are learning about the real history of New York and how it was not only the south that built wealth on the backs of slaves.

“It’s interesting because you learn a lot about things you never knew," says Nau

“We are studying the Civil War and we are learning about slavery," says Brooklyn resident Peter Holtan.

The Historical Society says never before in it's 200-year existence have so many people turned out for one of its exhibits.

“We will have had thousands of teachers come through this exhibition, and all of them are intent in bringing their classes back,” says New York Historical Society President Louise Mirrer. “This is exactly what we wanted.”

Teachers who come to this exhibit are given a book, a curriculum on slavery in New York, to take back to their schools in order to teach it to their students.

Added to the exhibit this week is a collection called Finding Priscilla's Children, 249-year-old paperwork documenting the enslaving of a girl from Sierra Leone who was sold in South Carolina. Historians were able to find her seventh-generation granddaughter.

The United Nations ambassador from Sierra Leone says it's all very emotional.

“A lot of African-Americans are now going to journey to discover the part of Africa that their ancestors came from, to discover their ancestral homes," says ambassador Joa Pemagbi.

The exhibit runs through March of next year, and then in the fall of 2006 there will be another one examining the lives of former slaves after they were freed in New York.

- Dean Meminger

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