Around the Island

Manor event looks at the everyday life of slavery: Discussion Saturday on the people who suffered

Sylvester Manor is continuing to focus on American slavery and its own history of involvement in the crime.

In a year of mass protests seeking racial justice and equality, the Manor is preparing what it’s terming a conversation and a Q&A at the Manor House on Sept. 26 about the actual people who suffered here under what has been called, “America’s original sin.”

The Manor has invited David Rattray, managing editor of The East Hampton Star and director of the Plain Sight Project, to join Donnamarie Barnes, curator/archivist at the Manor, to lead the discussion titled, “History of Slavery on the East End: Inserting the Memory of the Enslaved back into History.”

The event is open to the public and held on “the Manor’s back porch,” with a goal of discussing the idea that slavery was not unusual in the 17th century on Long Island, but a component of everyday life, according to the Manor’s Operations Director Tracy McCarthy.

Part of the effort by the Manor to explore its history is an ongoing, serious rehabilitation of what it calls the “Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground,” where up to 200 souls have been interred in unmarked graves on a hill surrounded by a fence in a grove of white pine above the driveway entering the grounds.

The Plain Sight Project is a partnership with The Star and the East Hampton Library to research and reveal the lives of enslaved people in the region. Its website gives an idea of what the organization’s goals are: “A black man called Shem cut timber in 1796 to build a grain windmill with a member of the celebrated Dominy family of craftsmen. Cato obtained or had soled six pairs of shoes from the town cobbler in 1785 — why? What work did he do? In the Rev. Nathaniel Huntting’s home inventory for 1734, Betty and Jimmy had the use of a ‘homemade bed, a bolster, three pillows of down, and three old blankets.’ Who were they? Where did they come from? And there is Jack, a free black man, building a house for himself in the East Hampton ‘street’ in 1676 on land he could not sell nor leave to his children. What was his story?”

Ms. Barnes, who, in addition to her work at the Manor is chairwoman of the Plain Sight Project, said, “From the founding of the towns and villages of the East End of Long Island by European settlers, slavery was an integral part of life in every community here. But the identities and stories of the enslaved people have been lost to history and hidden from view. The evidence is there to be found, waiting among the documents and records of every town. The work we do at Sylvester Manor and the Plain Sight Project is dedicated to uncovering the names and adding as many details of the lives of the enslaved as we can. Their contributions are a part of our history and the history of this nation.”

History of Slavery on the East End will take place at the Manor House, 80 North Ferry Road, on Saturday, Sept. 26 (rain date, Sunday, Sept. 27) from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are free. However, due to space limitations, pre-registration is required (click here).