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Capital District Council for the Social Studies  (Albany, NY)

CDCSS Webinar: Historical African American Experiences at Cherry Hill, 1767-1903

  • 03 Dec 2020
  • 4:30 PM - 5:45 PM
  • Online
  • 43


Registration is closed

Historical African American Experiences at Cherry Hill, 1767-1903

Presented virtually by Shawna Reilly, Education Coordinator at Historic Cherry Hill

Historic Cherry Hill's extensive and intact collection includes more than 70K items reflecting daily life of five generations of a Van Rensselaer household between 1787 and 1963. We are in the middle of an NEH grant to create digital teaching packages which uncover the experiences of African Americans at Cherry Hill. We have found and digitized an astounding number of documents and objects belonging to and related to the life of dozens of enslaved African-Americans up until 1827, as well as five children raised as wards and servants by the Van Rensselaer family between 1854 and 1903.

The presentation will highlight the digitization work done so far. Highlights include:

--A ledger where Maria Van Rensselaer (1749--1830) recorded births, marriages and deaths of family members as well as enslaved individuals at Cherry Hill and surrounding Van Rensselaer homesteads;

--A letter from the matron of the Home for Destitute Colored Women & Children in Washington, D.C., inquiring about a girl, Mary Burle (1863-?), placed in the care of the Cherry Hill household. The Home was established in 1863 to house thousands of former slaves fleeing from the Confederacy to the Capitol after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation;

--Letters and ephemera belonging to William James “Jimmy” Knapp (1844-1885), an Albany musician who was raised as a servant by the Van Rensselaers after the death of his mother, who is believed to have been descended from enslaved people at Cherry Hill. We have started to uncover Jimmy’s life in Albany, including ties to local musicians and the African American community.

The presenter will give an overview of the project’s findings, including a Powerpoint presentation of highlighted digitized collections, and discuss goals for use in programming at Historic Cherry Hill.

There are two objectives for the presentation:

1) To give a preview of the primary documents and objects from HCH’s collection which will be used to create digital teaching packages (including a 3D model of the historic house);

2) To highlight how the NEH project fits in with HCH’s other initiatives, including a reinterpretation of our core tour, to more accurately represent the experiences and perspectives of enslaved people, servants, and immigrants and African-Americans in Cherry Hill’s surrounding community.

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