The Brooklyn Historical Society is a museum, library and educational center dedicated to encouraging the exploration and appreciation of Brooklyn's diverse peoples and cultures both past and present.
The Bridge Street Church was built in 1847 as a Congregationalist Church and was later purchased by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1854. The Church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad where slaves escaping to freedom would hide during the day before venturing further north under cover of night. It also offered refuge to those fleeing the New York Draft Riots.
The riots occurred during June of 1963 after the second drawing of draft numbers in Lower Manhattan. Initially intended as an expression of anger to the army draft, the riots soon escalated into a race riot that targeted black New Yorkers. The New York Metropolitan Police department attempted to control the riots, but their Superintendent John Kelly was attacked and left almost unconscious. Police were unable to suppress the crowds, who moved on to attack the Bull's Head hotel, Mayor's residence and New York Times building. Soon they turned their sights on the Colored Orphan Asylum, but the police held the orphanage long enough for the children to escape before the building burned down.
Hundreds of black New Yorkers fled the city, some driven out by landlords who feared their buildings would be targeted. To this day the Draft Riots are known as one of the largest racial uprisings aside from the Civil War. This resulted in a major demographic shift as many of the black families never returned to Manhattan, but instead chose to remain in Brooklyn or leave for other states.
In 1865, Harriet Tubman, famous for her dedication to helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, came to speak at the church and drew a large crowd of both black and white individuals.
Today, the historic church serves as the student center for NYU Polytechnic.
Cover photo credit: Wikimedia Commons