Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Colored Orphans Asylum and the New York City Draft Riots: July 13-17, 1863

From July 13-17, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the worst race riot in American history took place in New York City. Among other buildings, the Colored Orphans Asylum (pictured above) was burned to the ground. There are several good histories of the riot, its causes, and the immediate aftermath--I recommend In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863, by Leslie M. Harris, for its overview of the riot. I have provided a link to the book here, but there is a wealth of additional information available. The Virtual New York site, produced by CUNY, has a comprehensive discussion of the riot here. The New-York Historical Society offered an amazing look at Northern slavery with its recent (a couple of years ago) Slavery in New York exhibit, which is permanently online here

The photo at right is an interior photo of a classroom at the Colored Orphans Asylum. Also available on line is a report, formally titled Report of the Merchants Committee for the Relief of Colored People Suffering from the Late Riots in the City of New York, generated by a relief society formed to aid the African American community in the immediate aftermath of the riot--here. 

This is American history that many folks are not aware of--but it is important for us to know.

All best,


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