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  • Lolita Avila

Black History Fast Facts: Thomas and Harriet Truesdell’s House is Officially a Brooklyn Landmark

Yesterday, February 3, 2021, Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission

announced that 227 Duffield Street in Brooklyn would officially be recognized as a landmark! The house was owned by the revolutionary abolitionist couple Thomas and Harriet Truesdell in the 19th Century. This house was rumored to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Here are a few facts about the Truesdell's and their home:

  • They were established activists originally from Rhode Island, but they settled in Downtown Brooklyn.

  • The Truesdell's continued to support the abolitionist movement once they arrived in Brooklyn.

  • In the 19th century, Brooklyn was an essential region for abolitionist activity as it was the home of many free slaves and had an active waterfront. Brooklyn’s busy working waterfront was a vital entry point for runaway slaves who hid on ships to escape slavery in the south. Many of the freedom seekers were sheltered by local abolitionists.

  • The Truesdell's lived at the house from 1851 to 1863, during which the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted. This law allowed for the capture and return of escaped slaves and required all states to cooperate.

  • Despite the law, the Truesdell's continued to speak out against slavery and was known to use their home as a safe place for runaway slaves.

  • Since secrecy was a significant component in the Underground Railroad's success, the verbal accounts about the house being a safe haven for runaways are not confirmed; however, Brooklyn elected officials such as Council Members Stephen Levin and Laurie Cumbo still believe their home holds historical significance.

  • In 2007, Duffield Street was renamed as Abolition Place to honor both Thomas and Harriet Trusdell and the entire abolitionist movement.

  • To help recognize Brooklyn for its significant role in the movement, a local petition was filed with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to acknowledge the Truesdell's home as a historic landmark.

  • In July 2019, the Council Members and activists protested against the demolition of 227 Duffield Street.