A ghost at the Tenement Museum, which has been investigating immigration, home, and affiliation issues for nearly 30 years through a meticulously recreated apartment tour in a five-story building on the Lower East Side of New York City. Is not in short supply. However, in recent years, the story of a particularly ghostly being remains in the background.
In 2008, shortly after the opening of a story-telling apartment for 19th-century immigrant Irish waiter Joseph Moore, museum educators found something interesting in the city’s directory in 1869. Just above Moore’s name was another waiter, Joseph Moore, who lived in the neighborhood of several people.
Same name, same occupation. However, there was an additional designation of “Col’d” or “Colored”.
Educators began encouraging visitors to think about the two Joseph Moores. How were their lives similar or different? As other educators picked up the story, conversations spread about how to talk about “other Joseph Moore” and about the broader omission of the museum.
Today, the museum is keen on the story of Black Joseph Moore to celebrate its reopening at the block party on June 12. It is studying the reproduction of an apartment dedicated to him and his wife, Rachel — initially dedicated to a black family. We also introduce a neighborhood walking tour called “Reclaiming Black Spaces” that explores places related to the presence of nearly 400 years of African Americans on the Lower East Side.
The museum has also revised all apartment tours to be more honest about how racism and racial discrimination shaped the opportunities open to almost white migrants where struggles and efforts are being sought. I will.
“Basically, we’re disassembling and reassembling everything,” said museum president Annie Poland in an interview last month after peeking into an unrestored top-floor apartment. Joseph Moore.
“Racial ideas were always important to understanding the experiences of all families in New York and the Lower East Side,” she said.
The reopening will come after a turbulent year in the museum. Last spring, the pandemic shutdown put it in a financial tailwind, leading to the temporary dismissal of many staff. And it was also in the midst of a controversial union movement.
And in June, after police killed George Floyd, some staff protested what they saw as the museum’s inadequate support statement for Black Lives Matter. The museum soon issued a second, more self-critical statement promising to “address the harmful methods we have educated about the history of migrants, immigrants and refugees, while omitting the history of blacks.” did.
With an annual pre-pandemic budget of $ 11.5 million, the museum may be a small institution. But how are museums and nations celebrating the experience of immigrants incorporating the story of a black man who was unknowingly brought here and kept out of opportunity for centuries? Is full citizenship open to most newcomers?
“The museum has always considered the question of how people become Americans,” said Lauren O’Brien, principal investigator of the Joseph Moore project and the new walking tour. “But what does it mean to be born as an American but not seen as an American?”
“This is our island of Ellis”
The first stop on a walking tour near the corner of Allen and Livington Roads, a few blocks north of the museum, reveals that Africans were part of the city of New York from the beginning.
In the 1640s, there was a 6-acre farm in Sebastiaen de Britto, one of a group of enslaved Africans, and in 1647 a successful partial freedom and land application was made to the Dutch East India Company. His farm was part of a larger area outside the official boundaries of New Amsterdam known as “Black Land”.
Its early black presence was that the remains of a colonial African burial ground were found in Lower Manhattan, Manhattan, and the city’s first black mayor, David Dinkins, said, “This is our Ellis Island.” It has become better known since it was declared in 1991.
In the museum’s archive, O’Brien discovered a letter from a woman named Gina Manuel from the year of its founding, 1988, and urged the founder to include the story of the Black Lower East Cider.
“When planning a museum, please, don’t forget,” she wrote. “Their spirits walked through those halls, their bones lay on Earth there, and we remember them.”
O’Brien also found evidence early in the museum that there was some storytelling around a 19th-century black stepfamily named Washington. But it failed because the museum focused on its unique approach. A recreated apartment tour focusing on the families who actually lived on 97 Orchard Street between 1863, when the building was built, and 1935, when they boarded. up.
It created a magical physical time capsule, but it also had limitations. Today, eight restored spaces on 97 Orchard Street tell the story of Jewish families in Germany, Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe. However, museum researchers did not find evidence that more than 7,000 people who lived in the building for years included a black family.
In 2017, the museum opened a second building just above the block. This allowed us to add stories of Chinese immigrants and Puerto Rican families and extend the timeline to the 1980s. However, researchers also did not find clearly documented black residents in the building, whether immigrants or indigenous peoples.
By that time, some educators had begun to fill the gap with the story of “other” Joseph Moore.
“People talked about it in their own way,” said educator Darryl Hamilton, who first noticed two Josephs in the city’s directory and mentioned them on the tour. “One of the great things about the Tenement Museum is that our educators are tasked with interpreting and presenting things in a way that suits us.”
For years, the museum talks to its staff about black historians like Leslie Harris, author of “In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.” I invited you to. And in 2019, we hired O’Brien, a graduate student at Rutgers University Newark, to investigate what turned out to be a “black space regeneration” walking tour.
For some museum staff, that wasn’t enough. In a recent article on museum labor issues published in Erin Reid magazine of The Public Historic, an educator who was dismissed last July, the manager said he did not support all educators’ approaches to the story of Black Joseph Moore. I did.
“We weren’t supposed to talk a lot about this,” Reed recalled. “The manager looks like this.” So why are you talking about the draft riots? Why are you talking about slavery? “
Poland, who became president of the museum in January (after being responsible for the program and interpretation from 2009 to 2018), admitted that some educators “have never heard of it.” And she said that previous revisions to the Irish apartment tour incorporated complex topics such as the 1863 Civil War riots in which white mobs (including Irish immigrants) attacked black New Yorkers. Said he left some difficult questions “unsolved”.
But the museum said, “Given the structure they had, I was trying to hear and understand the best way to process the material.”
The Joseph and Rachel Moore apartments on the 5th floor will not open until the fall of 2022. However, starting in July, an existing Moorland tour called “Irish Outsiders” is a preview of Joseph Moore and the museum’s detective work.
Blackmoor was born freely in 1836 in Belvidere, New Jersey, a rural town between New York and Philadelphia. (Slavery was not completely abolished in New Jersey until the Civil War.) He moved to New York City in the late 1850s.
By 1869, as the directory shows, he was 17 Laurens St in what is now Soho. I lived in a Nagaya behind. (Both streets and buildings no longer exist.) In the 1860s, District 8 and Moore’s Nagaya housed a mixture of black, Irish, and married black Irish households.
The museum spoke of Moore as a kind of internal immigrant and came to New York for an opportunity. And when the runaway slavery law put even free blacks at risk of kidnapping, it probably became safer. In New York in the mid-19th century, waiters were a well-paid job and the demand for black waiters was very high. (The completed Moore apartment contains a copy of the 1848 manual by Black Hotel steward Tunis Scanbell, which is believed to be the first of its kind.)
And skilled black waiters could be paid more than immigrant white waiters. Part of that is because Harris organized and fought for those wages in a movie made for the museum’s recent fundraising gala.
The story of the relationship between blacks and Irish New Yorkers is often remembered as the story of predominantly hostile acts that burned into violence during the 1863 conscription riots. And after the Civil War, according to Harris, black waiters were increasingly kicked out as white patrons demanded to serve whites.
But the paintings that the museum emphasizes are more complicated. After the riot, about 2,000 black residents left the city. But in 1869, Moore was still there. O’Brien wonders if he had an alliance with an Irish neighbor who helped protect him.
Along with many of the European immigrant families whose stories are told in the museum, their descendants climbed socio-economic ladders, leaving a rowhouse for the prosperity of the suburban middle class.
By the 1880s, Joseph Moore lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. But since then, at least so far, his road has become cold. And for a wide range of African Americans, O’Brien said that the upward trajectory towards being included in the American dream was often hampered.
“You don’t have that neat, clean ending,” she said. “There is no resolution to be considered American.”
There is much to be said about Black Joseph Moore, including the museum’s hopes and living descendants. But the complexity of the black story, Poland said, is part of the history of all Americans, no matter how and when the family came here.
“We are discovering ourselves again and trying to understand who we are,” she said of the museum. “When you start looking for this history, it’s around us.”