Credit: Vivan Yess Wadlin

The Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project

Click here for recent updates and information from The Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project

The people of Dutchess and Ulster Counties played a unique role in the struggle to end slavery.  The Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project works to call attention to this neglected aspect of our past.  Created in 2006, MHAHP brings together researchers, educators, civic leaders, and interested community members.  Our goals are:

* to conduct and synthesize research on the history of antislavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley, with special emphasis on the Underground Railroad;

* to interpret this history and to share these interpretations with a wide array of residents and visitors in our area, with particular attention to students and youth;

* to place local histories of slavery and antislavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley in the broader contexts of racial slavery in the New World; the African-American experience after Emancipation; and antislavery legacies today, including the impact of this historic grassroots movement on subsequent struggles for racial and social justice.

The Significance of the Mid-Hudson Valley

Our area combines central themes in the history of slavery and antislavery in ways unlike any other in the United States:

* As part of New York's agricultural heartland, the Mid-Hudson Valley was one of the most significant sites of slavery outside the South.  In 1790, at the slave system's peak, New York counted over 21,000 enslaved people in its population. Almost 10 percent of these lived in Dutchess County alone.


* The presence of many free Blacks created vibrant communities that became early sites of resistance and protest.

* Eastern Dutchess, containing America's largest Quaker settlement outside Philadelphia, played a lead role in ending slavery among Friends and operated an Underground Railroad to help freedom-seekers reach safe havens further north.

* In the 1830s, the creation of the Poughkeepsie Anti-Slavery Society and Dutchess County Anti-Slavery Society brought together new coalitions.  Communities of faith, especially the new Catharine Street AME Zion and the First Congregational Church in Poughkeepsie, took a strong antislavery stance; famous lecturers like Frederick Douglass and Abby Kelley Foster visited Dutchess repeatedly to speak and organize, and Dutchess County representatives attended many state and national abolitionist conventions.

MHAHP seeks to bring alive this complex and vital aspect of our past through lectures, exhibits, interpretation at key historic sites, walking and driving tours, art, music, and living-history recreations.

MHAHP welcomes volunteers and supporters of all backgrounds and interests.  Please join us in celebrating the history of freedom in our communities, and its meaning for us today. See below for ways to participate.

Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project's June 2007 Research Report

Historic Sermon to be Re-enacted

What DID Poughkeepsieans think!? Print and Share a flyer for this March 2 event.

On the eve of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, Sunday, March 3, 1861, the Rev. Moses Tyler preached a passionate antislavery sermon at First Congregational Church.  On Sunday, March 2, 2008, the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project presented a historical reenactment of this sermon, "Our Solace and Our Duty in This Crisis," which was published by local abolitionists in pamphlet form.

This 147th anniversary event took place at the historic site where the original sermon was preached:  First Congregational Church, 269 Mill Street, Poughkeepsie. Ii included inspirational music, with soloists from the interdenominational gospel choir Spirit of Unity.  Sermon excerpts were be delivered at 4 pm. Just before the sermon, members of two Poughkeepsie families from 1861, in historic costume, spoke briefly about the secession crisis and their hopes and fears about Lincoln's impending presidency.  These will include Uriah and Nolis Boston, leading African-American abolitionists and members of the AME Zion Church on Catherine Street; and Theodorus and Elizabeth Gregory, members of First Congregational and owners of Gregory House, a temperance hotel at the corner of Main and Catherine Streets.

A rousing antislavery hymn closed the presentation. The History Project, created in 2006, seeks to research the history of slavery, antislavery, and the Underground Railroad in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and to interpret that history for public audiences.

Freedom Schooner Amistad's Visit to Poughkeepsie

Click here for a PDF of the Amistad's Schedule of events from their 2007 visit to Poughkeepsie and Kingston

MHAHP's first public initiative was to bring the schooner Amistad, a reconstruction of the vessel that became the centerpiece of a dramatic episode in antislavery history, to Poughkeepsie. In 1839 a group of West Africans was abducted from their homeland and brought to Cuba, in violation of Spain’s ban on international slave trading.  They were sold in the Havana slave market and placed on Amistad for transfer to sugar plantations. The captives revolted, seized the ship, and sailed northward on a zigzag course, seeking to steer toward Africa, until they were taken into U.S. custody off the coast of Long Island. Fifty-three Amistad captives eventually won their freedom, in a court case that riveted the nation and built support for the fledgling antislavery cause.

The present-day Amistad was launched in 2000.  With a home port in New Haven, Connecticut, it is operated by Amistad America, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes improved relationships between races and cultures by educating the public, based on the lessons of freedom, justice, perseverance, cooperation, and leadership arising from the Amistad Incident. More information on Amistad's history and programs is online at www.amistadamerica.org.

Amistad visited Poughkeepsie Oct. 12-14, 2007 (alongside Hudson River Sloop Clearwater) and again Oct. 19-20.  The Amistad also docked in Haverstraw in early October and in Kingston Oct. 14-19.

On the evening of Oct. 12, the Dutchess Interfaith Council sponsored an Interfaith Story Circle at First Congregational Church/United Church of Christ, 269 Mill Street, Poughkeepsie.  On Saturday morning, Oct. 14, Amistad and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater will sponsor a joint celebration.  On Friday, Oct. 20, the First Congregational Church/United Church of Christ will host a Farewell Celebration Concert, marking the role of the UCC in reconstructing the Amistad and funding its mission. Sacred music was presented by the Zion Chorale of Albany and participants from Poughkeepsie congregations.

Additional events to celebrate the Hudson Valley Tour are now in the planning stages.  In addition to financial support (see below), there are many other ways to help!  Local organizations wishing to sponsor a related event, or volunteers interested in helping with any aspect of the Amistad's visit, ranging from dockside events to public outreach, should email amistadpok@gmail.com.


MHAHP is a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation of Dutchess County. We need your support! You can make an online tax-deductible donation at: www.communityfoundationdc.org/page30001.cfm. Please be sure to specify that your contribution is for the "MHAHP donor-advised fund."

Unless anonymity is requested, all donors will be acknowledged with gratitude in dockside displays. All donors and volunteers will be invited to a farewell Amistad reception on Friday, Oct. 20. Sponsors (those able to give $500) will receive information about a thank-you "sunset sail" during the Amistad's visit.

If you cannot donate at this time but would like to receive information about MHAHP's programs, please send your name and contact information (including e-mail address if possible) to:

PO Box 3647
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
or call: 845-705-8487

Click here for a PDF of the brochure about the MHAHP and the Amistad.