Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hidden history

History buffs, take note.

One of Brooklyn’s prized historical sites – the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn Heights — will be open to the public this month to learn about its role during in freeing slaves during the Abolition movement in the first annual “NYC Underground Railroad Festival.”

Held fittingly this Saturday on June 19 — aka Juneteenth, Emancipation Day — the day-long celebration will offer unique tours of the church, a place where both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. have worshipped, providing a glimpse into the church’s role as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“People can’t wait to hear more,” said Lois Rosebrooks, director of history ministry services for the church, who usually gives the tour to school classes.

Founded in 1847, the church’s first minister was Henry Ward Beecher — brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — who as minister spearheaded Plymouth’s anti-slavery activity. A documented stop on the Underground Railroad, thanks to memoirs and history books from the time, the church would hide slaves en route to Canada presumably in the tunnel-like, block-long basement beneath its sanctuary. The church became such a major stop that it was known as Brooklyn’s “Grand Central Depot.”

Vienna Carroll was so impressed by this history that she decided to organize the festival, which will also feature a performance of her musical, “Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han: An Underground Railroad Love Story,” which pulls from real-life characters, sites and spirituals.

“The festival and the show highlight unsung heroes of the Underground Railroad,” said Carroll.
From the Beechers and beyond.

“NYC Underground Railroad Festival” at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims [75 Hicks St. at Orange Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 624-4743], June 19 from 1-5 pm. Admission is $20. For info, visit


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