The Lost Museum Archive

Slavery and Civil Rights

New York State abolished slavery in 1827 but did not extend full civil rights to its African-American citizens. In New York City, black New Yorkers were barred from many public places--including Barnum's American Museum. This activity points students toward selected Archive materials, as well as exhibits in the Museum rooms, and asks them to consider how different visitors to the American Museum might have reacted to Barnum's exhibits about race.

Your task:
Read the "Notice to Persons of Color" in the Archive. Then read the correspondence between Barnum and a newspaper editor that was published in the National Antislavery Standard. Then examine the documents and images in the Joice Heth Archive.

After that, explore the museum rooms and consider how various exhibits refer to ideas about race and race relations. Imagine and then write about how a black and a white abolitionist (antislavery advocate) might respond to these exhibits. What about a white tourist from the South? Be specific about the exhibits.