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  • Writer's pictureNia Clark

S4 E7 Westchester (the Bronx)

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

1868 map of the Town of Westchester shows the Bethel A.M.E. Church and Cemetery located on what is now Unionport Road in the Bronx

By 1840 there were nearly 190 African Americans out of more than 4,000 residents in the town of Westchester, located in what is today part of the East Bronx. In 1849, several Black men formed the first Black church in the Bronx, known as the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and the only African burial ground in the borough. The Black community surrounding the church was made up of mostly laborers, farmers, skilled craftspeople and service professionals. Not only did the community of Westchester offer African Americans a bit more safety than Manhattan, but it also offered abolitionists more secluded areas to organize. Once such abolitionist is David Ruggles, one of the most prominent anti-slavery activists and abolitionists of the 19th century. Ruggles also had a presence in Westchester. He was associates with one of its residents named Uriah Copeland who was a founding trustee of theBethel A.M.E. church. Guests in this episode include Author, historian and Professor, Dr. Prathibha Kanakamedala as well as librarian and archivist at The Bronx County Historical Society, Dr. Steven Payne.

"Uriah Copeland, who's another interesting person who was a founding trustee...and...a farmer also owned some land in the area. And seems to have been associates - a little unclear exactly how close - with David Ruggles, leading abolitionist in New York at the time. And at least was a part of one of the reform conventions. The really interesting large movement of Black conventions that was going on in the 1830s, forties, fifties, sixties..." ~Dr. Steven Payne

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Guests in this episode

Dr. Prathibha Kanakamedala

Dr. Steven Payne

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