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.
Through courage and conscience, the residents of neighborhoods we know today as Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Dumbo, Vinegar Hill, Weeksville, and Williamsburg insisted that slavery be brought to an immediate end and demanded legal and political equality for African Americans. Brooklyn’s abolitionists and anti-slavery activists were ordinary people who came from all walks of life—educators, homeowners, businessmen and women, church leaders, journalists, and writers. They created vital local, regional, and national networks of communication and solidarity that advanced their anti-slavery ideals. In that sense, they actively shaped the city’s and the nation’s history as well.
Mrs. Benton's Inn, which once stood on busy Fulton Street, marked the beginning of a procession led by the Brooklyn African Woolman Benevolent Society. The organization marched on New Year’s Day, 1819, from here to the AME Church on High Street to celebrate their efforts to promote emancipation and independence. This march took place eight years before slavery was abolished in New York State.
Abolitionists represented one of the earliest groups in the nation’s history to work cooperatively across a racial divide towards a common purpose that was motivated by religious and political impulses. Many considered slavery a sin which therefore needed to be removed. Although the abolitionists, who came from various socio-economic backgrounds, were not always friends, they were deeply committed to their political work. They were met with violence and hatred from large sections of society who considered them a radical and dangerous minority. Undeterred, the abolitionists in Brooklyn and beyond achieved their agenda in a number of different ways, such as the march starting at Mrs. Benton's Inn.
Cover photo credit: Brooklyn History Museum