Around the Island

Confronting Sylvester Manor’s past: A statement of solidarity is released

To coincide with the Island rally in protest of police brutality and racism last Sunday, June 14, the Sylvester Manor team released a statement acknowledging the role of slavery in the Manor’s history.

Set within that context, the leadership committed to continuing efforts to learn from the past to support change for the better. It read, in part:

“The board and staff at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm stand in solidarity with this movement and affirm the need for lasting, systemic change…

“Sylvester Manor’s role in the history of racial injustice and slavery is always at the forefront of our minds.”

The statement traces the history of the first European settlers and founders of Sylvester Manor, who brought enslaved people to the Island in the 17th century. Their descendants supported efforts in recent years to unearth the history of the Manor.

Clues as to the number of enslaved people who lived and worked on the estate are fragmentary. Just inside the Manor gates, a burying ground may hold the remains of two hundred Native Americans, enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Under the direction of Curator and Archivist, Donnamarie Barnes, and the entire staff, the organization has continued to work to uncover as much as possible about the people who built Sylvester Manor, and to tell their stories.

The statement continues:

“So much work lies ahead and we are determined to learn more about these individuals and to give their lives agency. We are committed to revealing narratives that reflect the institutional inequities that have existed for hundreds of years. In these days of heightened awareness of racial injustice, so long overdue, we believe that learning and sharing the events of our nation’s history, as they are embodied at Sylvester Manor, will guide us in the present and show us the way forward to a more just future.”