Commemorate – Telling The Stories Of Enslaved Africans Who Lived In What Is Now Known As Irvington

by The Irvington Historical Society

The last five years has brought a wonderful awakening of knowledge and understanding about the richness of history in the Village of Irvington.  Drawing on the extensive study and research by Village residents Sarah Cox and Cathy Sears, the hidden and often ignored stories of enslaved Africans along the eastern shores of the Hudson River are now being told.  Hannah, Betty, Dick, David, Teem, Brebay, David, Bill, Jack, Bette, Bet, Caesar, Zusanna Derckse, and Hannah are among the many unrecognized, original inhabitants of our community – African men, women, and children identified by first names only, who were enslaved by many of the founding families of Irvington.

This history has been brought to light in articles, public art, community forums and public celebrations.  It continues to thrive through the work of Commemorate, a committee of our friends and neighbors who are using civic engagement to reveal this history and to honor the humanity, resilience and contributions of these enslaved peoples.

To learn more about Commemorate and its work, please see the links below:

Learn about the history of slavery in Irvington: Explore the Our Town & Slavery slides and text.

Read  Our Town and Slavery by Cathy Sears and Sarah Cox, Volume 20, Issue One, THE ROOST (Winter 2019), published by the Irvington Historical Society.

Learn about the Enslaved African Burial Ground that was located on the Buckhout/Jewel farm in Irvington:  Report to Substantiate Enslaved African Burial Ground by Sarah Cox, Cathy Sears, and Chet Kerr.

Watch the video presentation, “Our Town & Slavery: Irvington, NY”:

Virtually experience the unveiling and dedication of “Yesterday” on June 10, 2023, in a film created and produced by Michael Hanna of Protean Films.

Watch a documentary about the creation, installation and celebration of “Yesterday” produced by Dorinda Angelucci of AUX1 MEDIA, with very special thanks to Michael Hanna of Protean Films:

The type of research on enslaved peoples that Commemorate has done in our local area reflects a wider revisiting of historic documents and records documenting the role of slavery in New Netherland/New York. In a program hosted by the Irvington Historical Society, Lavada Nahon, an Interpreter of African American History for the NYS Office of Parks, shares how some of this information that has come to light and how it is shifting the landscape around enslavement in New York.