The Young Abolitionist Leadership Institute is one of our core programs. For several weeks each summer, local youth come together at the Myers Residence to steep themselves in the past, present, and future, and leave better equipped to become agents of change for a more just world. Here’s what we’ve been up to this summer!
Slave. Master. Among the many rocks we can turn over to see the dark side of our country’s racist past and present, the very words we use to tell the story of our history are ones that are hiding in plain sight. Language holds power, and our beliefs and prejudices are embedded in it; we must look more closely at the words used to describe the institution of slavery in America.
A 2016 study by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution found that the household wealth of a typical white family ($171,000) was ten times that of a typical African American family ($17,150). A major reason for this is the huge gap in homeownership between the two groups.
Sanctuary. Shelter. Welcome. These concepts have been built into the very walls of the Harriet and Stephen Myers Residence. From the days of meetings of Albany’s Vigilance Committee in the 19th century, the house on Lumber (now Livingston) Street has been a place to connect with the kindness of strangers, to receive a helping hand, and the resources to attain freedom. And now we must close our doors. Not forever, thankfully, but still – it hurts.
The Underground Railroad network, by its nature, attracted humanitarians of character and integrity. One little-known man who shone among them is John W. Jones, who escaped from slavery near Leesburg, Virginia, and helped more than 800 people to freedom through Elmira, New York.
Albany was a busy port city throughout the nineteenth century. During its most active Underground Railroad days, the city was occupied by lumber and other businesses at the riverfront and numerous retail establishments along Market Street (our current Broadway), Pearl Street, and corresponding cross streets.