Tenement Museum features story of Black family from 1869 on the Lower East Side

Kemberly Richardson Image
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Tenement Museum highlights Black family's 1869 apartment
Kemberly Richardson has more.

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Orchard Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side is where many Italian and German immigrants lived in tenements in the 1860s.

"A lot of institutions have forgotten or erased Black New Yorkers from that experience," said Marquis Taylor, lead researcher at Tenement Museum.

For the first time, the Tenement Museum is telling the story of a Black family who also called this area home.

A replica of Joseph and Rachel Moore's apartment is displayed.

Titled "A Union Of Hope: 1869" the exhibition highlights a crucial chapter in this city's storied past.

"During this time, Black New Yorkers are experiencing some of the worst moments of racial violence such as the 1863 Draft Riot and so a lot of what is keeping black New Yorkers in the city is the idea of hope," Taylor said.

Getting to this point, the City Registry from 1869 lists two Joseph Moores.

Both were waiters. One lived on Orchard Street and the other at 17 Laurens Street, letters indicate he was Black.

Orchard Street, at the time the 10th Ward, lacked diversity. Ward 8, present-day SoHo, was just the opposite.

That's where the Moores lived in a tenement where the SoHo Grand now stands.

In this neighborhood, there are Black Baptist churches and Methodist churches which all aided in Black New Yorkers' fight for some of the civil rights at the time," Taylor said.

Joseph moved here from New Jersey in 1857 and Rachel from Ulster County a decade earlier.

Three others lived in this space with the couple: Rachel's sister-in-law from her first marriage, an Irish washwoman, and her interracial son.

"This is an opportunity to think about how immigration and migration go hand in hand," Taylor said.

The attention to detail is remarkable. From the oysters to the rosary.

"We considered that the delicacy of the 1860s and 70s," Taylor said.

The exhibit is permanent and the museum's first new experience in several years.

"A part of the work we are doing is preserving New York City's Black history and making sure it is there for posterity," Taylor said.

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NJ Burkett reports.


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