Illuminating the Legacy of Slavery at a New York MuseumBreaking News
tags: museums, slavery, racism, art, public history
The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood, built in the 1780s in the Dutch Colonial style, is the oldest remaining farmhouse in New York City. It was also the home of the Dyckman family, who enslaved six people.
“No Records” (2020), a work by multimedia artist Reggie Black presented in collaboration with the museum, acknowledges the landmark’s history of slavery by projecting the words “Slaves Lived Here” on the building’s façade. The message, alternating between English and Spanish to reach Inwood’s predominantly Latino residents, was first projected on Monday night and will be seen again tonight from dusk until 9pm.
“The history of slavery is deep in New York City, not just in the South as sometimes perceived,” Black said in a statement about the project. “Everyday we walk past buildings and streets named after slave owners. For us, Black people, to tell our own stories is a powerful confrontation of that history. Let’s put that on display, too.”
As part of its DyckmanDISCOVERED initiative, made possible by a grant from the New York Community Trust, the museum hired a part-time assistant to research the lives of enslaved people who worked on the Dyckman Farm and other farms nearby. “No Records” is one of several works and programs presented as part of the project. On view inside the museum is the exhibition Unspoken Voices: Honoring the Legacy of Black America, featuring works by artists Gwendolyn Black, Sheila Prevost, and Rachel Sydlowski that draw from the museum’s architecture, history, and biographical data uncovered in the recent research.
DyckmanDISCOVERED and Black’s projection represent a reckoning for the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum and for New York at large, dispelling pervasive myths of the city as somehow excluded from the legacy of slavery in America. On its website, the organization notes that the enslaved population in New York grew faster than the white population between 1700 and 1750; by the middle of the century, New Netherland — encompassing parts of the East Coast — was the largest colony of enslaved people in the North.
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