Episode 33 “Angels of Mercy”: with William Seraile,

Professor Emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York.

The Colored Orphan Asylum was founded, in New York City in 1836, as the nation’s first orphanage for African American children. The agency weathered three wars, two major financial panics, a devastating fire during the 1863 Draft Riots (in which over 120 people died and 2,000 injured), several epidemics, waves of racial prejudice, and severe financial difficulties, to care for orphaned, neglected and delinquent children. Incredibly, although African Americans inmates from Rikers Jail are the primary “grave diggers” on Hart Island, there is no evidence that there was, until very recently, any African Americans actually buried on Hart Island.

“Angels of Mercy” not only weaves together African American history of an unsung institution, but also offers a unique window onto complex racial dynamics, during a period when many failed to recognize equality among all citizens, as a worthy purpose.

William Seraile is a professor emeritus at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he taught African American history for 36 years. His most recent books are “New York’s Black Regiments During the Civil War” and “Bruce Grit: The Black Nationalist Writings of John Edward Bruce”.

“Guest Blog”

Orphans (A Play)
based on his book “Angels of Mercy”

by William Seraile, Professor Emeritus

Lehman College, CUNY

Narrator:   Slavery ended in New York in 1827 but that act did not make its African American population equal. Their numbers were approximately 12,000 in New York City, then just the island of Manhattan. Subjected to rabid discrimination, they could not serve on juries, vote (unless they owned substantial property), attend integrated schools and were relegated to a high out of sight portion in white churches known as “nigger heaven.” They were denied public accommodations in pubs and inns as well as public conveyances where they had to stand on omnibuses or sit in separate cars. Victims of random violence, they survived by pooling resources to establish churches, African free schools, benevolent and mutual relief societies as well their first newspaper, Freedom’s Journal. They lacked resources to establish an orphanage for parentless or neglected children. This arduous task was taken up by Quaker women, many the relatives of influential New Yorkers whose names are today on street signs, buildings and public schools. Aided over the years by the financial support of New York’s elite families—Astor, Jay, Roosevelt, Murray, Lenox, Mott, Shotwell and others, Anna Shotwell, Mary Murray and Hannah Shotwell (show on screen illustration) along with twenty-five others established in 1836 the Colored Orphan Asylum, the nation’s first for youth of color. Before closing in 1946, the orphanage aided about 15, 000 children despite financial panics, diseases, fires, waves of racial prejudice and the destruction of their Fifth Avenue building on July 13, 1863. (show on screen illustration of building)


Alas! I am an orphan boy

With naught on earth to cheer my heart;

No father’s love, no mother’s joy

No kin nor kind to take my part

My lodging is the cold, cold ground,

I eat the bread of charity;

And when the kiss of love goes around,

There is no kiss, alas. 


Who were the children? They were orphans, half orphans, delinquent, neglected children ranging in age from two to twelve who were indentured to families in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, upstate New York, and Kansas. One came from South Africa in 1848, brought by a missionary, after his parents were killed, two African boys came 1854 after they were rescued from a ship wreck off Long Island, a child came from Cuba in 1838,  and six were sent in 1857 by their owner and a few came from western reservations. 

Death in the orphanage -as in the city- was common in the early years. Dying children were calm in face of death, hoping to “go to the good place.” 

Scene: spirits in a building at 5th Avenue and 43rd Street, the sight of the former  COA

Voice:  I am Adeline Hicks. I died on September 13, 1842. I was an eleven year old child who knew neither parents nor kin folk and saw hope in an eternal life. “I have no fear of death. I know it is only my body that will be laid in the cold grave, my soul will go to Jesus who died for me.” Unlike today where people die in hospitals away from curious eyes, we children sat around the bed and watch the last gasping breath take our playmate to Jesus’ bosom.

Narrator: The fear of death without salvation affected even those who entered the institutions with profane or vicious habits. Such a boy was William Jackson who was overhead telling the children not o be unprepared for death otherwise the joy of Heaven would be denied to them.

Narrator: Children in orphanages-white or black- were indentured at age twelve but some white boys had opportunities to be apprentices to masons, cabinet makers or merchants whereas colored boys went to farms and the girls to kitchens.

Voice: I am Aaron Lewis. My indenture was to Henry Roundtree of Cornwall, New York. My happy sojourn began on May 14, 1856. My employer was exceedingly kind. In a letter on December 11, 1851, I informed the orphanage that Mr. Roundtree, a true Christian, did not judge the darkness of my skin and I  offered the wish that every boy would have such an understanding employer.

Voice: George Coles spoke from the back in a clear voice. Mr. William Henry Van Deventer, a pious Quaker took me into his employ on February 3, 1860. Pleased with my assignment, I informed Superintendent William Davis on June 30, 1861 of my thanks for having the orphanage as my home, for teaching me how to pray and how to read. I  added that Mr. Van Deventer promised me a house and fifty acres of land if I remain with him until I am twenty-one. Imagine that! Such good fortune for a colored lad or for any lad at all. Still young and not confident about the ways of the world, I asked the superintendent if I should accept the offer.

Voice: You were so lucky! My name is James Comes. Twelve is too young an age to be indentured to strangers and white ones at that.  Though I heard about some who got colored families but regardless most of us were inexperienced, sometimes too lean in weight and strength to do hard farm work and…. Don’t think we girls had it easy washing clothes, churning butter and cooking all the time rang out a female voice.  As I was saying before being interrupted, exclaimed George, I was indentured in 1853 and felt lonely with the separation from the orphanage where my younger siblings were. It was too much, I tell you. So, I did what an immature boy would do: I ran away back to my only real home. To my disappointment the managers told me I could either stay in the House of Refuge with all types of characters, some crazier and more violent than others or find work and a place to live. Chasten by their rebuttal, I bowed my head and like the Prodigal son in the Good Book I walked and walked and then some more on my blistered feet until after one hundred miles I reached my employer’s home. My employer was happy to see me and I was eternally grateful for his generosity even now although I have been dead for over a hundred years. Using my life as a lesson, I wrote in 1858 to the children in the orphanage and warned them “as long as you have a good home…leave it not in a hurry to find a better for if you do not you will find a hard road to travel as I found when I left the asylum. Take the advice of one who has tried it.” Maybe some of you heard my message back then. A voice in the back: I kinda remember that story. Voice: Why they called our home the Colored Orphan Asylum? We weren’t crazy! George: No, we weren’t. All institutions back then were called asylums: deaf and dumb, blind, juvenile, even the white ones. No more interruptions please! Isn’t easy talking as a spirit! On November 15, 1860 I wrote Superintendent Davis “I am striving to gain an honorable livelihood which I owe to you. The only way I can show my gratitude towards you is by my future conduct and good behavior and I can never forget my orphan home where I learned what it requires to make a man of good morals.”

Voice: That was nice. I like nice stories. Are there more? When I, George Wesley Thompson was thirteen, the death of my parents forced me to leave Boston to live with my aunt in New York but the fates conspired against me. Aunty was buried the day before my arrival. The orphanage could not accept me because of my age but they assisted me in obtaining an indenture assignment in 1845 which I left two years later. In 1858 I wrote to the managers congratulations for their “noble success in training up those you have had and still are in charge of for many a child has been snatched away from poverty, cold, relentless grasp and placed in a happy home. The work you have begun will crown your brow with laurels and your hearts with triumphant satisfaction. Fire the zeal of love and plant the seed of righteousness. Listen to me children for I was a very, very naughty boy who had teased and taunted old men and women. Oh! when will the children learn to honor their fathers and mothers?”

Voice: any girls…I mean ladies here? Can’t see a damn thing!

Voice: You didn’t learn that world in our home

Voice: Sorry! 

Narrator: Some girls were mischievous, even vicious because they too were at times emotionally insecure and some engaged in criminal behavior. Fires, theft, poisoning, even physical violence. Thirteen year old Phoebe Clark threatened to poison her host family in Maine as well as burn their house down to charred ashes.

Voice: Regretfully, I, Sophie Slossom was a wicked child but I did not want to live in that cold, cold country with nothing but white people every where: farms, stores, church…The only brown things I ever saw were squirrels. In 1864 I could not take it. No excitement in that dreary land so I thought I entertain myself with matches and how was I to know straw would burn so quickly. Burned down two barns, a hovel, the carriage house, pig pen all which was value at $3000. A voice in the back, that is about $48,000 in today’s money.

Narrator: There were others. After absconding from his first indenture, Augustus Layton drowned a child in his second assignment.  The third employer was not lucky either. Augustus beat the man’s wife. He was sent to prison in 1870 for thirty months. A vicious boy, he killed an unfortunate soul. Visited by the orphanage’s children in 1881, he warned them about improper judgement or they would be locked up like him.

Voice: You may have read about me. I was in all the papers. Not proud about it but it happened. I, Alice Price, got reprimanded for wearing my employer’s shoes. Don’t know what the fuss was about. She had six pairs to my one. So, I decided to get even. Found some rat poison in the barn. Put a little in the cooked food which sickened them. Well, they recovered and since they didn’t suspect poison, I did it again putting some in the succotash which nearly killed the family. Those folks were tough. Next, I put a little bit more in cooked oysters which had them vomiting and taking trips to the outhouse if they could get there in time. Finally, my employer, Mr. J. Van Nest Stillwell found poison missing in the barn. I confessed and pleaded mercy but those evil people had me in jail for a year.

Narrator: Although the superintendent would interview prospective employers and request letters of recommendation from a clergyman or some other dignitary as well as obtain promises that they would provide religious and other instructions, some employers were absolutely vicious to the point of depravity. It was not until 1874 that a law was passed preventing cruelty against children (animals were protected against cruelty in 1873) Spare the rod and spoil the child was a common refrain. Before the Civil War, Edward Bennett of Southport, Connecticut forced John Dolan to stay outside in the bitter cold.

 John Dolan: “I lost my fingers at the first and second joints and was flogged with thirty-six lashes.” I was just a child, for the life of me, I cannot recall what infraction I committed in Mr. Bennett’s mind. I became a seaman but was in financial difficulty. I visited the institution in 1891 and again on July 21, 1895 as I was a  really hard up man. In 1896, the superintendent asked me to locate witness so that charges could be brought against Bennett but it was impossible to find any one over forty years later. Why did they wait so long to ask that question, why didn’t they notify the authorities? Sometimes, you have to question the wisdom of white folks. The managers gave me a hundred dollars in 1921 and assistance with coal, groceries  and other necessities. In 1928 they paid for home care but told me that after that I was the responsibility of my family. A few months later death came calling and you can’t out box God nor out run the Grim Reaper who never tires of chasing unwilling people. The orphanage did pay for my $175 funeral. Over the years, they provided me with $1,085.47. Rather, had kept my fingers!

Narrator: Girls were mistreated too. If not by employers who overworked them and taught then no skills beyond caning chairs, milking cows and sewing, then by smooth talking dandies who took their virtue and sometimes left them with a child. More than one girl dismayed by her unwanted station took arsenic, Paris green or drank themselves to death.

Voice: I never knew why some girls were chosen for tragedy. Did we seek it? I don’t think so but tragedy and misery come like thieves in the night and place you in their clutches and you ask God why?

Martha Rue: I was a young thirteen year old child employed by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McNeill, two of Satan’s offspring. They accused me of theft which I was not guilty of but they severely punished me expecting a confession as to where I hid the money. I was tied by my thumbs to an overhead beam with my toes barely touching the ground. I was kept in the position and beaten with raw hide for two weeks. The excruciating pain left the skin rolled up from the bones of my thumbs. I confessed although I never stole anything. I was taken to jail where I stayed for two weeks before a judge refused to charge me with theft. The Monsters of Paterson as a paper described them were fined two hundred dollars. I died on March 7, 1879. I was twenty-three years old.

Voice: That was sooo depressing. Aren’t there any stories about heroes?

Narrator: Well, yes.  Some of the boys were in the Civil War, both world wars and some have great stories to tell. But it may take some time for them to build up enough energy to come from where ever they are buried. It wasn’t easy for you all to get here, right? Anyway, we have a few minutes to hear about the Civil War and then we have to get out before the building opens because you know they disliked us when we were alive and they will soil their pants if they saw us now! About nine boys fought in the Union army but one was so light in complexion, Edward Daniel Hall, that he joined a white regiment, the twenty-third New York Infantry and witnessed Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox Court House in Virginia.

Voice: I am James Henry Gooding, born a slave in North Carolina on August 28, 1838. My master freed me when I was eight and I was brought to the orphanage by a Mr. Gooding. Was he my father, my master or both? I never knew. Indenturing did not suit my temperament,so I left before completion and moved to Massachusetts to explore the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as a whaler. What a life! At sea for months and seeing this monster of a fish. At least, I believed that they were fish until an old hand told me that they are mammals. Anyway, I did this for five years. But my passion was writing. Wrote poetry and penned 48 letters to The Mercury in Bedford, Massachusetts between March 3, 1863 to February 22, 1864.  My writings were so erudite that white folks that I matriculated at some fancy New England prep school. Guess you cannot blame them. No one knew that I was educated in the Colored Orphan Asylum by teachers who vacationed in Europe. There, I learned about Greek classics and the Bard of Avon—uh, Shakespeare to you who didn’t pay attention in school. To keep my secret, I said that I was born in Troy, New York, a free man. White people believed it was true because it was on my seaman’s papers, marriage certificate and military papers. I joined the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry and in 1864 wrote the president of the United States, Honest Abe, the so-called Great Emancipator and told him that we colored soldiers were not laborers so we should get the same thirteen dollars as white boys. If we are going to die, it should not be for ten dollars a month minus three dollars for clothes. Pay us as soldiers, not mere hirelings is what I wrote the president. Historians have been praising me since or least the bothers keep that challenge to congressional authority before students.  I don’t know if he read my letter but Congress gave us equal pay retroactively. Didn’t get TO ENJOY it for long because I got myself capture at Morris Island, Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. But before that unfortunate incident I did plant our regimental flag. (I think Denzel did that in that Glory movie) I didn’t die in that battle although the orphanage’s records said that I did but it didn’t take long for that notorious prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia to wear my life away. Henry Wirz, commander , was executed for starving and killing Union soldiers. Only person executed for war crimes. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and all those Confederate traitors should have been subjected to the hangman’s noose. Instead, they got holidays and statutes!  

Narrator: We really have to leave before the workers arrive. We don’t want white folks to get any paler than they are. OK. Gather up your energy and come back in a year. No body die on us, ok. (laughter). Maybe we can get Thomas Barnes who showed in 1936 the shirt he wore on July 13, 1863 when our precious home was destroyed. Or, would you like to hear from the orphanage boys who became known as the Harlem Hell Fighters as well as Elvin Bell who saved fellow sailors during the Second World War. Personally, I would like to hear Dr. DuBois tell us how he lambasted the orphanage over its patronizing views. But you know by all accounts that he was pretty arrogant. May not come. OK until next year, keep your spirits alive (meek voice, sorry).


The Colored Orphan Asylum
and James Henry Gooding

by Professor William Seraile (Emeritus)

The four year Civil War that was America’s bloodiest war to date, killing 618,000 and maiming hundreds of thousands would have a tremendous impact upon the Colored Orphan Society. 

About a dozen black children would enter the orphanage either because their fathers were killed in combat or their prolonged absence caused a hardship on the mother who was forced to seek relief in the asylum. Some of the former asylum boys would wear the Union blue in combat and one, James Henry Gooding, would receive national prominence. 

Born a slave in North Carolina on August 28, 1838, James Henry Gooding freedom was purchased by James M. Gooding (who may have been his father) who brought him to New York where he gave him manumission papers. James was admitted into the asylum on September 11, 1846, and indentured in 1850 to Albert Westlake but left his employ on July 15, 1852.

His personal history from 1852 until he joined the army became a work of fiction. In 1991, Virginia M. Adams edited On The Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier’s Civil War Letters, an examination of the extraordinary forty eight letters Gooding wrote to The Mercury in New Bedford, Massachusetts between March 3, 1863 and February 22, 1864.

For unknown reasons, Gooding hid both his slave background and his years in the orphanage. He fabricated a history that had him born in Troy, New York. This misinformation was citing in his seaman’s papers, his marriage certificate and military records. Understandably, Adams could not locate records for the Gooding family in either the New York State census or local upstate records. She was struck by his familiarity with the classics, history and literature and while she could not locate his school records, it is clear that he was educated in the asylum. 

Gooding worked as a seamen from 1856 to early 1860 and then, again, in 1861 in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. He was described by a contemporary as ‘a person of intelligence and cultivation much in advance of a majority of his race,” and indeed, it could be added, much in advance of many whites of the period. 

The erudite Gooding wrote six poems while at sea that were eventually published. His most famous writing, a December 28, 1863 letter to President Lincoln, was prompted by the military paying black soldiers less than white counterparts. 

Gooding, who have joined the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first colored regiment raised in the North, asked for equal pay for black men; some of whom had known “the cruelties of the iron heel of oppression [of slavery]…. [Pay us] as American soldiers, not as menial hirelings.” He asked his commander in chief “are we soldiers, or are we labourers?” 

It is not known if Lincoln saw Gooding’s letter, but the government decided in 1864 to equalize salaries, some eighteen months after men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment refused to accept an unequal salary. 

During the Battle of Morris Island at Fort Wagner (dramatized in the film Glory) near Charleston, South Carolina, Gooding heroically planted the regimental flag. (The asylum records mistakenly noted that he was killed during the battle) Gooding was wounded in February, 1864, in the Battle of Olustee, and was taken prisoner. He died six months later in the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia, so notorious for its mistreatment of Union soldiers, that its commander was executed after the war ended.


“Talking Hart Island”


The Draft Riots of 1863
and The Colored Orphan Asylum

by Professor William Seraile (Ret)

Tranquility in New York City during the Civil War would end as the Draft Riots from July 13 through July 16 would engulf the city in mob violence against policemen abolitionists and the most sought after target, African-Americans. The rage of the mob would not even spare the Colored Orphan Asylum. 

Irish immigrants made up about a quarter of New York City’s population. Economically, they were at the bottom, mired in poverty and held in contempt by the Protestant white elite. George Templeton Strong, a representative of the elite class viewed the Irish as “brutal, base [and] cruel….” 

The Irish despised the Negro who they often competed with for the most menial positions. Tensions between the groups would often lead to violent clashes. On August 4, 1862, four hundred Irishmen attempted to burn a factory that employed black women  and children but were prevented from doing so by the police. 

The New York Times urged Catholic priests to admonish their Irish parishioners to behave as better Christians. Poverty forced many Irish to serve in the Union army because they, unlike, wealthier persons could not hire a substitute for $300. Often drafted, they served and died in disproportionate numbers. Several Irish firemen resented being drafted because they believed that their service in the militia exempted them from the draft. 

They went on a rampage and destroyed the draft office in Manhattan’s 19th ward. It was falsely believed that the riot was precipitated by Negro strikebreakers who took stevedore jobs. Recent research indicated that only three rioters were identified as longshoremen and they were not known to have engaged in anti black violence.

The mob pillaged the mayor’s home; they attempted to destroy the office of the Tribune, an anti-slavery newspaper, and to kill prominent African-Americans such as Henry Highland Garnet, pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church. 

Superintendent of Police Kennedy, “a man of powerful physique” was so savagely beaten that he became “ disfigured as not to be recognizable.” According to eyewitness Charles Chapin, “Negroes [were] hunted …as if they were wild beasts.” Chapin reported that on the third day of rioting, he spotted a black man trying to get on a ferry to Long Island. “For once I saw a black man turn white from fear and as I sank my hands on his shoulder he sank to his knees with the piteous cry of ‘for God’s sake massa don’t kill me.’” Chapin escorted the frightened man to safety. 

The mob was so intent on killing blacks that neither gender nor age mattered. The Colored Orphan Asylum became a target because the majestic building underscored the success of blacks over the Irish. Even the children had clean linen to sleep on; food was plentiful and meals were regular.  The Irish complained that the wives and daughters of New York’s swells provided them with the comforts of life. 

There were 233 children in the asylum on that fateful day, July 13, when the mob came and after taking bedding, furniture, dishes, and any usable item they could carry, saturated the floors with an inflammable substance. Just before the attack, a light complexioned man (later identified as James McCune Smith’s son) mingled with the mob and warned Superintendent Davis of their designs.

The assembled children were asked by a teacher, ‘do you believe, that almighty God, can deliver you from a mob?’ They were told to pray for God’s protection as they silently left the building. Mary Murray noted that only five employees, the nurse, a teacher, a shoemaker, the superintendent and the matron, remained in the building with the children. But when they exited ‘the sight of a helplessness so absolute stirred in the hearts of the rioters a feeling akin to pity, cursing was turned to blessing and then a hush felled over the crowd, the seething mass fell back upon itself, and a passage was opened for the children. It seemed as though a mighty hand was holding them in control.

This may have been an inventive scene suggested for its impact on a sympathetic city that believed the hand of Providence saved the children and that they should aid the rebuilding of the orphanage. An Irishman on the street was severely attacked for telling the rioters, ‘if there is a man among you with a heart within come and help these poor children.’ The children managed to get to the police station on 35th street, nearly a ½ mile distance, where they were uncomfortably too close to incarcerated rioters. 

Thomas H. Barnes, who wrote an unpublished autobiography in 1924, recalled that the “prisoners would strike at [the children] through the bars of the doors. They would let the water run on the floor, compelling us to stand in the filthy water from their cells. It was nearly  twenty-four hours before we got anything to eat.” 

Barnes had praise for a German woman who brought in bread and meat “secreted in her clothing.” This she did on several occasions which Barnes believed would have led to her demise if discovered by the rioters. The frightened children remained for three days, fearing that the mob would break into the police station and massacre them. 

On July 16, the asylum’s children left Blackwell’s Island under the guarded protection of forty policemen and fifty Zouaves who carried fixed bayonets. They were placed on boats which took them to Blackwell’s Island (Roosevelt Island) where confusion reign as up to a thousand refugees searched for lost relatives while fearful that rioters would get in boats and stormed their sanctuary. Blackwell’s Island housed the insane, criminals, and paupers and the sight of them provided the children with unexpected lessons about the vicissitudes of life. 

 Before the rampage ended, many African-Americans were viciously beaten and lynched regardless of gender, age or race. One victim, Peter Heuston, a Mohawk Indian, was killed because rioters thought he was a black American. Seven year old Joseph Reed was beaten with sticks and cobble stones before a fireman, John F. McGovern, rescued him. The boy was cared for by a German woman but he died of his wounds a few days later. 

Irish women who were married to black men were viciously beaten for “crossing” over. A white woman, a Mrs. Derickson, died a week after a severe beating.29 George Templeton Strong condemned “the unspeakable infamy of the nigger persecution” which he deemed worse than the “Jew hunting of the middle ages.” 

In Boston, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison wrote to Oliver Johnson, co-editor of The National Anti-Slavery Standard, his fear that the riot may spread to other cities as “the whole North is volcanic.” He added, “my heart bleeds to think of the poor unoffending colored people…outraged, plundered, murdered by the demons in human shape….” 

There were many heroic actions during the rioting. Perhaps, the most remarkable was rendered by an unidentified eight year old girl who saved the asylum’s Bible before the children evacuated the building. The Bible is now in the possession of The New York Historical Society. 

An Irish family, at great peril to their own safety, hid a dozen blacks in their home for several days until a police escort could take the frightened souls to the station house. A six years old boy became lost from the fleeing asylum children.

An Irish woman who worked in the asylum for eleven years took him to the home of Allen Griffin, the colored shoemaker at the asylum. Eight black women on Thompson Street, vowed not to be sacrificial lambs for the mob’s blood lust. They boiled a mixture of water, soap, and ashes to pour on any one who attempted to break into their homes.

The aftermath of the riot was the dispersal of about five thousand African-Americans who fled Manhattan for the Jersey swamps or to the black community of Weeksville in Brooklyn. Manhattan’s black population declined to 9,943 in 1865 from a high of 12,574 in 1860.

Five days after the riot ended, New York City’s merchants organized a relief committee to aid black victims. Assistance was provided for 6,392 persons who lost property during the three days of rioting. On August 22, Henry Highland Garnet and seventeen prominent blacks wrote and thanked the merchants. “You bound up our wounds and poured in the oil and wine of Christian kindness and took care of us. You also comforted the aching hearts of our widowed sisters and soothed the sorrows of orphan children.” 

The children were temporarily housed at Blackwell’s Island until early fall. A girl died there of consumption on October. Two boys who disobeyed instructions not to swim in the East River drowned. 2 African-Americans in New York and throughout the nation quickly came to the aid of the distressed ladies. 

Maria Barnes contributed $225.25; $300 was raised in San Francisco, and $126 was raised by six women in St. Louis. The New York Merchants Relief Committee contributed $1000 and $1600 was raised through the efforts of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., father of the future president and a COA adviser.  Six African American churches in Manhattan donated $75 in gold through James McCune Smith.

Outrage over the mob’s actions against defenseless people and angry at Seymour’s undisguised sympathy for the rioters led an individual or individuals to produce a card 5 ½ inches in length and 2 ¾ inches in width which was printed as a book mark or a salable item for fund raising. It read in bold letters, punctuated with capital words.



To the Memory of the COLORED ORPHAN ASYLUM of New York. Which was BURNED TO ASHES July, 1863 by a RUFFIANLY MOB.

Who were acknowledged and addressed by HORATIO SEYMOUR, Governor of New York, as being his “FRIENDS”.

God save the State of New York! 


“Talking Hart Island”