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Peter Stewart ~ Stephen Meyers Black Abolitionist, Albany NY

  • Broadcast in Education
The Gist of Freedom

The Gist of Freedom


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Historian, Peter Stewart lectures on the  Meyers Residence an Historic Site, important stop in Albany's Underground Railroad Route. Stewart will also discuss the inflatable Liberty Church, an amazing artistic preservation and celebration of the Underground Railroad.

Black stewards served on the steamships that plied the Hudson between NYC and Albany. One of them was Steven Myers, a leader of the Albany underground. Myers worked as a steward on the Armenia, it’s almost inconceivable that he didn’t escort fugitives as a regular thing. (Steamboats were incredibly dangerous: they blew up, all the time. In 1852, the Armenia was beaten by the Henry Clay in the most famous race ever.  The Henry Clay caught fire and became a floating inferno, killing eighty on board. 

The image of fugitive slaves sneaking northward in the dead of night has a terrific iconic power however By the 1850s—and in spite of the Fugitive Slave Law—underground’s work took place completely in the open. In 1852, the warden of Sing Sing penitentiary, released one day early a prisoner, a fugitive —to keep him from falling into the hands of the U.S. Commissioner.

The underground always embraced new technology. Just as steamboats replaced the old land route, the underground literally took to the rails wherever it could. The opening of the railroad up the eastern shore of the river in 1851 cut travel time in half. In the 1850s, the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery office gave fugitives train fare for travel from New York City north. In 1855,Harriet Tubman simply took three of her brothers,and several other companions she had led all the way from Maryland, to Grand Central Station and bought them tickets for Albany