People are often unaware of the rich history of New York City. Part of this is due to the nature of life here, which for centuries has been to tear down the old and build anew. (A friend visiting from out of town last week was mortified when we entered the current Penn Station for a train ride to Long Island; she was expecting something akin to the original.) Nowhere is this truer than in Lower Manhattan, which is the part of the city settled the longest by European inhabitants. Every day millions of people arrive from New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York itself, taking mass transit to the steel and glass office towers and hurrying home at 5:00 pm. About the only major tourist activity in the area is the site where the World Trade Center once stood. The Harlem Historical Society is hoping to change this by creating a Freedom Trail similar to the one in Boston. The trail would focus on abolitionist and nineteenth century civil rights activity in New York City. When people think of New York and African Americans the first thing that jumps to mind is the Great Migration that brought people to Harlem in the twentieth century. The story is deeper than that. Hopefully the Freedom Trail will become a reality in the near future and more people will be aware of this history. The local community board has signed off. Funding from disparate sources will hopefully come next.

Above: Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York State in 1797 and lived in Lower Manhattan in the late 1820s and early 1830s.

(image/Wright’s New York Gallery (MI), Cowan’s Auctions)