New Exhibit Coming Soon

Brand-New Exhibit!
The Joseph & Rachel Moore Story

This year we’re adding an all-new permanent apartment exhibit to our historic tenement building, 97 Orchard Street, telling the story of Joseph and Rachel Moore, Black New Yorkers who made their home in Lower Manhattan’s tenements in the 1860s and 1870s. Launching Fall 2023!

Years in the making, the Joseph and Rachel Moore exhibit will trace Joseph’s history from his free Black community of Belvidere, New Jersey, through his family’s migration to New York City, and the community he and his wife Rachel built in their neighborhoods and workplaces. Visitors will experience the exhibit through a new 60-minute guided tour.

Meet the Moores

Joseph and Rachel lived in a rear tenement at 17 Laurens Street, less than a mile west of 97 Orchard Street in a neighborhood then called the 8th Ward, today’s SoHo. Their building shared a courtyard with two other tenements, and in this yard, the Moores would have crossed paths with their neighbors—Irish, West Indian, Cuban, and French immigrants, migrants from Virginia, Maryland, and Louisiana, and other Northern-born Black New Yorkers.

The diversity of the neighborhood was rare in the city, and in this exhibit, we’ll explore how neighbors formed communities in buildings, businesses, schools and churches in the 8th Ward.

Joseph works as a waiter and later a coachman, driving other New Yorkers in a horse-drawn carriage, while Rachel “keeps house,” cooking and cleaning for their household. In their tenement apartment, they live with an Irish washerwoman, Rose Brown; Rose’s Irish and Black son, Louis Munday; and Rachel’s sister-in-law from her first marriage, Jane Kennedy, a dressmaker.

The Moores attended Catholic services at St. Anthony’s Church. and likely visited often with Joseph’s mother and brother in their nearby tenement.

Amidst these daily routines, they also discussed the issues of the day—the violence against Black New Yorkers during the 1863 Draft Riots and their decision to stay in the city; the impact of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in the years after the war. How did they react to emancipation, the arrival of long-fought-for citizenship for Black Americans? What hope did these changes inspire for them?

The Joseph and Rachel Moore exhibit will extend our nuanced storytelling of tenement life to Black New Yorkers, and shine light on the world of collaboration and tension in which Black New Yorkers and Irish immigrants lived during these pivotal years after the Civil War.

How did race and racism shape access to opportunity, social mobility, and the“American Dream” for the descendants of these families? What were the hopes they had for their children and grandchildren? How can learning about these hopes, as well as the different paths each family took, and the differing obstacles in their way, help us understand American history better, and our own families’ place within it?

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  • Participate | Look out for upcoming opportunities to participate in free pilot tours!
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The Making of The Joseph and Rachel Moore Story

Watch our latest behind-the-scenes videos on the Moores — including a special look at the research behind the new exhibit and our in-depth 20-minute short film, A Tale of Two Joseph Moores. As 97 Orchard Street reopens and we start work on the new exhibit, be sure to check back for more!

Researching Family History:
Getting to Know a Neighborhood

Check out Kat Lloyd, our Vice President of Programs, showcasing some of the recent research on the Moores as we map out the neighborhood in the 1860s to determine where Black New Yorkers like the Moores might have shopped, socialized, worshipped, banked and more using city fire maps, bank records, and other primary sources!

A Tale of Two Joseph Moores
Short Film

Learn more about the Moores and the inspiration behind our soon-to-be-unveiled apartment exhibit in this short film! Our new interactive program will trace the story of two waiters named Joseph Moore, one Black and one white, through the research and documents brought to life in this film clip.

In the News

Everyone’s abuzz about the Moores! Check out the latest articles from The New York Times and NPR on the new apartment exhibit, its upcoming launch, and the story that inspired it all.

Listen to our segment on NPR’s Here & Now!

Two Joseph Moores — one Black, one white — inspire NY Tenement Museum to explore Black history

NPR’s Here & Now

New York Times Features the Tenement Museum’s Black History Projects

The New York Times

Discover More Stories

Over the years, visitors and staff asked about the Black and African American people in the area — where did they live? How do their stories connect to the stories at 97 and 103 Orchard Street?

Explore these questions and more on Black identity formation, community development, placemaking, and reimagining Black futures through stories of Black Lower East Siders that span centuries in our newest walking tour, Reclaiming Black Spaces.

Featured Walking Tour
Reclaiming Black Spaces

Discover what drew Black New Yorkers to Lower Manhattan, how their experiences were shaped by migration, how they created a sense of home, and how they resisted the racism they faced. From the story of Sebastiaen de Britto, one of the first Black residents of the area in the 1640s, to Studio We, a musicians’ collective in the 1970s, we’ll look through windows of the past that expand the history of today’s Lower East Side.