In the middle of a heatwave, it seems like a perfect time to sit back and get a quick lesson about the things our ancestors endured here in Albany.

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According to Museum Of The City New York In the 1820s two prominent Black men worked hard to frame life for Black people in Albany. Slavery was legal in New York until 1827 when it was abolished. After the abolition of slavery, two prominent Black men started the Albany African Association to fight for freedom and rights for Black people living in Albany.

Public Domain/
Public Domain/

At that time, slave catchers were still running rampant throughout the region trying to capture runaway slaves to return them to their owners in the south.

There was a group of white abolitionists who believed that Black people should be free, but that they should be displaced to somewhere else outside of the United States.

Two black men, Reverend Nathaniel Paul and Ben Lattimore Jr. fought against that claim. They knew that their ancestors had worked hard to build this country, and they had no inclinations to give up their rightful claim to this country.

Public Domain/Friends Of Albany
Public Domain/Friends Of Albany

According to New York State Museum, in 1828 and 1829 Reverend Paul and Ben Lattimore began working in the courts to fight for rights for formerly enslaved people. They formed the Vigilance Committee to help freedom seekers in the Hudson Valley and the surrounding areas.

An important task for the Vigilance Committee was to raise funds, help freedom seekers in court cases, and to fight off unscrupulous police. Police officers were a big problem in the 1830s. Often Black people would get captured Black and unlawfully be deemed runaway slaves and sold off to slaveholders in the south. These were some of the first documented cases of police corruption in the history of this country.

In 1834, a group of approximately 100 black men broke into the city jail in Albany to rescue an imprisoned black man before he could be shipped down south. The black men overpowered the prison guards and rescued him. Prison officials vowed to punish the ringleaders if they were caught.

This is just a quick glance back at some of the powerful actions some brave Black men took in the 1800s. These men could have been some of your ancestors, who knows. When you hear people say "Free The Guys" they were really about that action in 1834 in Albany.

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