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Tenement Museum Redefines its Telling of Immigrant and Migrant History with New Exhibit Featuring a Black Family in Post-Civil War New York City


Contact: Bianca Landry | [email protected]

Tenement Museum Redefines its Telling of Immigrant and Migrant History with New Exhibit Featuring a Black Family in Post-Civil War New York City

“A Union of Hope: 1869” explores the intersection of Black history and immigration in New York, exploring key historic moments from the Draft Riots to the passage of the 15th amendment

As the city’s only permanent exhibit featuring Black history during and after the Civil War, “A Union of Hope” is an invaluable resource for visitors, including teachers and the thousands of K-12 students who visit the Museum annually

Exhibit opens for public tours on February 1st

NEW YORK, NY – After reopening its National Historic Landmark tenement at 97 Orchard Street last fall, the Tenement Museum has unveiled its first new exhibit in several years, “A Union of Hope: 1869,” exploring the Black migrant experience in post-Civil War era New York City. The exhibit, which opened for limited tours in December, will occupy the fifth floor of the Museum at 97 Orchard Street and will be open for an expanded tour schedule on Thursday, February 1. Tickets to “A Union of Hope” tours are available here.

For the first time in its 35-year history, the Museum is sharing the story of a Black family, who lived in a nearby tenement. Departing from its traditional focus on the stories of families that lived in its historic buildings, the Museum is fulfilling its goal to explore the full breadth of immigrant and migrant experiences. “A Union of Hope” will be the only permanent exhibit in New York focused on 19th century Black history during and after the Civil War.

“Our mission is to elevate the stories of everyday immigrant and migrant families to promote a more inclusive vision of what it means to be an American,” said Annie Polland, President of the Tenement Museum. “Too often the stories of Black New Yorkers in the 19th century have been written out of history. With ‘A Union of Hope’ we expand our understanding of migration to New York City, by highlighting an untold story from the Civil War era. Decades before Harlem became a Black neighborhood, Lower Manhattan had the largest Black neighborhood in the north, with a crucial network of churches, mutual aid associations, schools and newspapers. It was in this tenement neighborhood, that Joseph and Rachel Moore, carved out new lives.”

Showcasing a recreated apartment and over 200 never-before-seen historical artifacts, “A Union of Hope” will tell the story of Joseph and Rachel Moore, charting their move from the free Black communities of Belvidere, New Jersey and Kingston, New York to the Eighth Ward in Lower

Manhattan, today’s SoHo, which was then the heart of the city’s Black community before urban development drove many residents to move north or leave the city altogether.

“Exploring Black experiences among the tenements in New York City is crucial to expanding our understanding of immigrant and migrant histories in this country,” said Leslie Harris, Professor of History and Black Studies at Northwestern University and a consulting scholar on the development of the new exhibit. “The story of Joseph and Rachel Moore, who made their way to the city during one of the most tumultuous decades in US history, shines a light on how the first generation of free Black Americans confronted the limits and expanded the promise of this nation’s evolving ideals during the revolutionary Civil War Era.”

Interactive, multimedia tours will explore how migrating to New York during the Civil War brought Joseph and Rachel to the center of key social, economic, and political movements of the era — including the New York City Draft Riots, the birth of Black media, the development of mutual aid networks, urban development and community displacement, and the ratification of the 15th amendment.

“In researching ‘A Union of Hope’ we were intentional about ensuring Black New Yorkers are at the forefront of telling their own stories,” said Marquis Taylor, lead researcher for the exhibit. “Primary sources from the 1860s show how Eighth Ward residents built community in a precarious moment, while the nascent Black press of the era reflects an impressive diversity and complexity of intellectual life. It’s exciting that visitors and students will now be able to learn from this wealth of previously unexplored material, curated from a period when Black New Yorkers’ voices have often been marginalized or unacknowledged.”

The Tenement Museum partners with schools locally and across the country. It welcomes thousands of K-12 students every year both virtually and in person to learn history through its diverse tenement family stories. Starting in February the Museum will begin offering a number of virtual programs for Black History Month designed to help visitors more deeply explore the story of Joseph and Rachel Moore and their times.

With stories spanning over a century, the Tenement Museum now brings to life family stories from China, Eastern Europe, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Russia, and now a Black American story, offering a unique window into our shared American identity and underscoring the pluralism at the heart of New York City and the United States.

Our new Joseph and Rachel Moore exhibit is being made possible by The Hearst Foundations, the Mellon Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, the Zegar Family Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Support for new educational resources and a virtual tour is being provided by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.

About The Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum was founded with a goal to share the stories of diverse immigrant, migrant, and refugee families in order to build knowledge, empathy, and connection in the world today. The completion of its once-in-a-generation project to preserve its National Historic Landmark at 97 Orchard Street earlier this fall protected original features and finishes and comprehensively supported the building’s ongoing use as well as the opening of the 5th floor. With the launch of newly reimagined tours, and the opening of its new “A Union of Hope: 1869” exhibition, the museum is better positioned than ever before to help diverse visitors use the stories of historic immigrant, migrant, and refugee families to consider a more inclusive and expansive American identity today. In addition to on-site tours, the Museum welcomes tens-of-thousands of K-12 students and visitors for Virtual Field Trips and livestreamed programming including Tenement Talks with leading scholars and authors.