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Slides and narration notes were prepared by New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) general secretary and webmaster Thomas C. McCarthy for presentation 4:30 – 5:30 pm during a meeting of the NYC DOC Explorers Post Friday, Feb. 29th, 2008, at the  Williams Epps Community Center, 93 Park Avenue, Staten Island, as arranged with DOC Explorer program advisors Sonya Nivens and Jemal Davis.
Pick (1) the year Black History Month began and (2) who began it. If you don’t know, make your best guess. ( Invite show of hands for each year and name) before clicking inserts giving answers. Note: 2 right answers for the year: 1926 for the History Week and 1976 for when it became a Month.  Note: “Negro” became “Black” in the ’60s. Note: at 17 he had not yet been to school. Image of Dr. Woodson based on one appearing on 2007 Black History Month page of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services web site at
You are Explorers and Investigators. These slides explore and investigate where NY Correction History and Black History cross paths, where they intersect. Not all connections , (time doesn’t allow), but some more interesting ones. Doing history can be exciting. Finding the Past hidden in the Present. Like a game where animals drawn in a picture aren’t visible at first but then you discover them there when you look for them.
City Prison, built in late 1830s and called the Tombs because of its mausoleum  design, was where NYC executions took place. All 18 previous to Feb. 21, 1862, had been under state law. The hanging on that date was a federal case: Maine Capt. Nathaniel Gordon, the first and only U.S. slave trader ever executed.  Why was the City Prison chosen for the federal execution (depicted in Harpers magazine illustration).
The image of the Tombs execution of Nathaniel Gordon is based on one appearing on the HarpWeek web site at http://blackhistory.harpweek.com/2Slavery/SlaveryLevelOne.htm
An 1807 law banned importation of slaves and 1820 law made it piracy punishable by death. A Navy/Marine squadron, that began with a mission to fight Barbary pirates, also took on the task of capturing slave ships. But often those slavers convicted received light penalties. That is, until election of Lincoln on GOP platform vowing “total and final suppression” of African slave trade as “crime against humanity.”
The image of the African Slave Patrol Commemorative Medal can be found on Charles P. McDowell’s Foxfall Medals web site in the Military Order of Foreign Wars section at
On Aug. 8, 1860, the USS Mohican fired a shot across the bow of the slave ship Erie that held 897 forced onto it at Shark’s Point, the Congo River, West Africa.  Care of these was given over to the American Colonization Society in Liberia (note certificate). 30 Africans died from ill treatment and bad conditions on Gordon’s ship. If not rescued, twice that number would’ve died aboard.
American Colonization Society membership certificate can be found at
James Roosevelt, DA under the Southern-leaning Pa. Democrat President James Buchanan, offered a plea deal. Gordon in Eldridge St. Jail (with walk-around outside privileges) rejected it. Lincoln’s DA E. D. Smith withdrew offer, locked up Gordon in the Tombs, sought death penalty to signal strong will to end NY port ties to the slave trade. Note that the hand-written death sentence specified City Prison as the place. The NYCHS graphic pen sketch of Edward Delafield Smith is based on a Library of Congress image no longer found on the web but that was part of a web presentation about the Gordon case by former National Archives education specialist Karen Needles on a Documents on Wheels site. The image of the recorded sentence (to which NYCHS has added red underlines for emphasis, is likewise from the same source.
The US used Ellis Island to execute two pirates April 22, 1831 and used Bedloe’s Island to execute pirate Albert Hicks July 12, 1860. Why not likewise with Gordon? His appeal even argued that a new state law barred execution except for murder or treason, and not sooner than one year after conviction. But the court rejected that argument. Correction head Simeon Draper gave feds the permission. Note: his signature.
The Bedloe's Island Fort Wood image was extracted from one found on the National Park Service site's "Early History of Bedloe's Island" web page at
The “S. Draper” signature was extracted from an image of 2 dozen signatures on a petition by leading NYers on behalf a candidate for a federal appointment in the Lincoln administration.
The execution was intended to display the new administration’s firm will to end slave trade. Would a remote island site or NYC’s most famous prison better serve that purpose? The question answers itself. What did Bedloe’s Island and Fort Wood become later? Hint: You can see it real well from Staten Island ferry. (Click.) Bedloe’s later became Liberty Island.
The State of Liberty image above was extracted from a larger image on the Library of Congress web site at
The Tombs was one of the jails and prisons run by Department of Public Charities & Correction. DPC&C had on its annual report covers the same Mother figure giving succor to her needy as on the report covers of its ancestor agency, the Alms House Dept. It managed hospitals & homes for the poor. These included (Click) the Colored Home for the elderly and (Click) the Colored Orphan Asylum.
The image of the cover of the 10th annual report of the Governors of the Alms House (1858), showing Mother New York caring for her children, is dgital copy of a photocopy of the printed volume in the City Hall Library.
For more about that excellent resource, visit
The Colored Orphan Asylum image was extracted from a larger image appearing in the Harlem Dowling West Side Center’s  175th Anniversary Journal web page at
1863 draft rioters torched Colored Orphan Asylum. 233 children were saved, sheltered at DPC&C facilities on Blackwell’s Island. It was begun in 1836 by 3 Quaker ladies who hired 1st U.S. black Doctor James McCune Smith, medically trained in Scotland, as the orphan’s physician. Harlem Dowling West Side Center for Children & Family Services had its roots in the Orphan Asylum. The torched orphanage image is based on an 1863 Illustrated London News sketch appearing on a number of web sites, including CUNY Graduate Center's Virtual New York presentation of Seymour B. Durst's Old York Library collection of NY historical materials. See
The Harlem Dowling West Side Cente logo and h&s image of Dr. Smith can be found on its  web site, including its 175th Anniversary Journal web page at http://harlemdowlinggala2007.eventjournal.com/view_about.php?action=page&journal_id=83&page_id=4338
Shamed by the orphanage arson & other draft riot outrages, Governor Seymour withdrew his opposition to formation of an U.S. Colored Troops regiment from NY that the Union League Club had been seeking to establish. On 3/5/1864, the first such NY regiment, trained on Rikers Island, marched, in full uniform and with rifles, to cheers of crowds from E. 26th St. dock to Union Square.
The Gov. Seymour image is based on a larger Wikimedia Commons image at
The Union League image is based on the banner images appearing on the home page of the Union League Club of New York at
The image of the 20th Reg. USCT parade 3/5/1864 is based on Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 26, 1864 sketch that appears on various web sites, including
the American Antiquarian Society's Northern Visions Of Race, Region, & Reform site
Three of the 100+ Union regiments and other units that trained or were housed on Hart and Rikers Islands at various times during the Civil War were USCTs: the 20th, 26th, & the 31st. Rikers’ 20th showed bravery in Battle for Port Hudson, La.  Rikers’ 26th saw fierce action in S.C. Hart Island’s 31st helped cut off the retreat by Gen. Lee’s forces at Appomattox, ending the war. The Hart Island photo is a NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photo in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC. The Rikers Island pre-landfill image is based on a detail from an 19th century marine navigation map.
Of all the African Americans who fought for the Union, only about 100 entered or became commissioned officers. These included doctors and chaplains such as 20th USCT Chaplain George W. LeVere and 26th USCT Chaplain Benjamin F. Randolph. Note: Flag of 34 stars. 4 rows of 7 stars, 1 row of 6. Lincoln refused to remove stars of the breakaway states. The image of the 26th USCT on parade at Camp Penn is based on a larger National Archives photo on the Athens-Clarke County Library's Guide to African American History's Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow web page at
Chaplain for 20th USCT, Rev. Geo. W. LeVere, was later the first pastor of the Shiloh Presbyterian Church of Knoxville, TN. , taught school under the Freedmen Assembly, headed up another school, helped start the Colored Mechanics of Knoxville, and served as national leader of many Prince Hall Masonic lodges that trace back to a Boston African American patriot with that name.
A web page devoted to American Revolution Col. Thomas Crafts Jr. includes the tri-corner hat image of Prince Hall, two paragraphs about him and a link to a PBS web page with a fuller bio mentioning his role helping found African American Masonic Lodges. See http://www.geocities.com/jcrafts525/
Whereas the 20th’s flag had 34 stars, the 34th being for Kansas, the 26th’s flag had 35 stars, the 35th being for West Virginia, which split off from Virginia over the issue of secession. Another difference: the 26th’s had its name embroidered on one of the red stripes. 20th & 26th USCT flag images can be found on the web site of the NYS Military Museum & Veterans Research Center at: http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/btlflags/infantry/20thInfUSCTCamp.htm http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/btlflags/infantry/26thUSCTNational2005.0076.htm
Rikers 26th USCT’s chaplain Rev. Benjamin Franklin Randolph later worked in S.C. with the Freedmen’s Bureau. Elected State Senator & head of S.C. GOP. He was gunned down by 3 white men as he stepped off a train at Hodges Depot, Abbey- ville, S.C. Later a cemetery was estab- lished in Columbia, S.C.  in his honor. The Rev. Benjamin Franklin Randolph image is based on one athttp://members.aol.com/AASCRoom4/SC1868LegislatureR1.htm that is part of a South Carolina African American history web site created in 1999 by EEVaughn aka Pastense2. The J. Tracy Power photo of the Randolph Cemetery obelisk appears on Page 10 of South Carolina’s Historic Cemeteries: A Preservation Handbook by Susan H. McGahee and Mary W. Edmonds on the web site of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History at  http://www.state.sc.us/scdah/hstcm.pdf
In D.C., African American Civil War Memorial features Spirit of Freedom  sculpture and the Wall of Honor – with 209,145 USCT names, including those of 5092 who trained on Hart (1,881) and Rikers (1,567 and 1,644) Islands that became NYC Correction bases in 1869 & 1884, respectively. Approximately 450 of islands’ 5,092 USCTs were killed (87) or died of disease (365).
Image of memorial was taken during a New York Correction History Society photo session there. All rights retained and reserved/ For more, visit
2 men who headed the municipal agency that managed the jails and prisons as well as the charitable institutions became Civil War era NYC Mayors: Daniel F. Tieman (1858 – 60), who was anti-slavery & helped found Cooper Union where Lincoln spoke against it. C. Godfrey Gunther (1854 – 65), anti-abolition,  anti-Lincoln & anti-Emancipation but had to lead NYC mourning for slain Abe. Mayor Gunther image is based on a Dec. 19, 1863, Harper’s Weekly sketch found at various web sites, including http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civilwar/1863/december/charles-gunther.htm The Lincoln NYC funeral images are from Obsequies of Abraham Lincoln in the City of New York. See http://www.correctionhistory.org/html/chronicl/gunther/gunther06.html
Here’s a story that shows how Women’s history, Black history, Correction History, and U.S. History intersect. In Seneca Falls there’s the Wesleyan Chapel begun in 1843 by 39 Baptists when their church didn’t cut slavery ties. Soon Presbyterians joined it after their church expelled Rhoda Bement who challenged their minister’s not announcing a women’s abolitionist meeting. The Wesleyan Chapel and Frederick Douglass images are from the National Park Services web presentation about its Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. See
5 years later in the Chapel the 1st Women’s Rights Convention held, run by female abolitionists launch-ing the drive for women suffrage (voting rights). Rhoda Bement was among subscribers. That era’s leading Black advocate Frederick Douglass spoke, invited by Rhoda’s co-chairperson of anti-slavery fund-raiser Elizbth M’Clintock. His statue stands in Seneca Falls site center.
48 years later the grand-daughter of Rhoda Bement ran a Philadelphia settlement house, arranged for and worked with W. E. B. DuBois doing an sociological study of the ghetto it served. The Philadelphia Negro launched urban sociology. Her name was Katharine Bement Davis (KBD), whose middle name came from Rhoda’s last name. Grandma lived with Davis family in upstate NY.
In 1900 KBD was named to run Bedford Hills   Reformatory for women. She refused to segregate inmates on basis of race. In 1914 KBD was named NYC Correction Commissioner, first woman to head any NYC government agency. She became VP of the Woman Suffragist Party and the1st woman ever to run for office on the statewide ballot of major party (TR’s Progressive). The Bedford Hills image can be found on the Museum of disABILITY History web site at http://www.museumofdisability.org/html/exhibits/society/maps/map_ny_1900_1950.html
For more KBD information and images, see
KBD began the NYC Parole Board (the first municipal parole board in the country) Dec. 1915 and served as its 1st chairperson. In ‘39 Mayor LaGuardia named Lou Gehrig to it after Yankee 1st baseman could no longer play baseball. Lt. Samuel Battle, 1st NYPD Black cop, was named to succeed him. Former DOC Deputy Commissioner Fitzgerald Phillips was Parole Bd. Member when state took over in Sept. 1967.
For more about Patrolman Battle, see
For more on Lou Gehrig, see Baseball Hall of Fame site at
For more about NYC Parole Board and Parole Board Commissioner Fitzgerald Phillips, see
Benjamin Malcolm began in 1946 as an officer of the NYC Parole Board (which was begun in 1915 by KBD). In 1978  Malcolm  became Deputy Correction Commissioner & in 1972 Commissioner, first Black to head  NYC DOC. In 1977, he became US Parole Commissioner. Occasionally he revisited DOC headquarters and offered words of encouragement to the NY Correction History Society.
Ben Malcolm photo is a NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photo in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC.
Benjamin Ward  was 1st Black cop in 80th Pct. Bklyn; earned law degree, became NYPD Lt., Legal Affairs atty., headed Complaint Bd. In 1975 he was named 1st Black NY State correction services commissioner. In 1978 named NYC Housing Police Chief. In 1979 Ben Ward  was named NYC Correction Commissioner. In 1984 he became the 1st Black to be appointed NYPD commissioner. Ben Ward images is among the items in NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained.
Jacqueline McMickens, who joined DOC as a C.O. in 1964.  She became 1st woman to head Academy and 1st woman top uniformed officer. In 1984 “Jackie” was appointed NYC Correction Commissioner, the 1st CO to rise there thru ranks to that post. She was the 1st and so far only African-American female Commissioner. A lawyer, she is in private practice. Jackie McMickens image is a NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photo in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC.
Rikers penitentiary, built in 1933, was named James A. Thomas Center in 1989 for man credited as Dept.’s 1st Black warden. He served a decade as its warden from 1965. He had been tank sgt. in WWII, joined DOC in ’46 and retired after 30 years service. Because he got a provisional appointment as warden 3 years before James C. Harrelson’s provis- ional appointment, JAT is called ‘1st.
Warden Thomas and JATC images are NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photos in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC.
James C. Harrelson, Dep. Warden honored for releasing inmates to help rescue people from burning wreckage of the LaGuardia Airport plane that crashed on Rikers Feb. 1, 1957.  Both Thomas & Harrelson became DWs same date & received permanent warden appointments same date. Expect for Thomas’ getting provisional warden status 3 years earlier, they tie for 1st honors.
James C. Harrelson images are NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photos in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC.
Besides James A. Thomas Center, 4 other DOC facilities are named for African Americans. The floating jail moored at Hunts Point, across from Rikers, is named for Warden Vernon C. Bain (d. 1985). The jails named for Warden Otis T. Bantum (d. 1969) and Chiefs of Department Eric M. Taylor and Robert N. Davoren (the adolescent facility) are on Rikers Island. Bain barge, Warden Bantum, Chiefs Taylor & Davoren images are NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photos in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC.
The Guardians Association (Father Lawrence Lucas, past president) is main African American organization DOC recognizes. Decades ago, the Dept. recognized the Correctionaires, that was founded in 1939. Its presidents included Warden Harrelson and Jessie L. Behagen who in 1962 was among the first 6 women sworn in the then new rank of Assistant Deputy Superintendent for Women (female equivalent to ADW rank). Jessie Behagen image is from a NYC Dept. of Correction (NYC DOC) photo in the archives managed by the NY Correction History Society. All rights retained by and reserved to NYC DOC. Image of Guardian banner and Fr. Lucas from C.O. Ralph Smith’s Guardian Chronicles web site. http://www.guardianchronicle.com/
Now making “new” Correction History /  Black History are three names to note:
-- Carolyn Thomas, the current Chief of Dept., the highest uniform rank;
-- Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.
-- Ronald Whitfield, president of the Correction Captains Association.
Chief Thomas’ image is from the web site of NYC DOC at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/about/man_bios.shtml
The Norman Seabrook image is from a Ralph E. Smith photo.
The Ronald Whitfield image is from a CCA publication.
NYCHS is a nonprofit Regents chartered historical society dedicated to the pursuit, preservation and promotion of the interconnected and overlapping histories of correctional agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in the state, cities and counties of New York. The image of children at the Colored Orphan Asylum on Slide 11 is based on one appearing on different web sites. Example. It appears as part of the book jacket cover for In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 by Leslie M. Harris. See University of Chicago Press  web page for book excerpt
Also on the same page can be found Slide asylum arson memorial card image on Slide 12.