Witnesses to History: Slavery in the Founding Era

December 2019 - December 6, 2020

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presents this special installation featuring documents that represent the views and activities of Americans involved in slavery as well as those who fought to abolish the institution, deepening our knowledge of slavery during the Founding Era. 

Following the Revolutionary War, the existence of slavery in the United States forced people to wrestle with the ideals of freedom versus the reality that slavery was a firmly entrenched economic institution. At the time, 500,000 people (one fifth of the U.S. population) lived in bondage. Although many white Americans believed that slavery was immoral, they would not forfeit their own and the country’s economic prosperity in the name of someone else’s freedom. Even the men who wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence owned slaves themselves. 

Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.



Media sponsor:

Creative: Tronvig Group