Is New York’s Tenement Museum replacing Irish history with black history?


Conflicting reports have emerged about the future of the Irish tour at the Tenement Museum in New York City, with some sources claiming the museum is on the verge of ‘replacing’ the story of an Irish family who lived in the building in the 19th century. century.

The Tenement Museum, located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side, is dedicated to documenting the immigrant experience in New York City in the 19th and 20th centuries, paying homage to the 7,000 people who lived in the building of five floors.

Among the experiences documented at the museum is that of Joseph Moore, an Irish immigrant who lived at 97 Orchard Street with his Irish wife Bridget and their three US-born children. Their story is presented in the “At Home in 1869” tour.

Shortly after opening Joseph Moore’s apartment at the museum, researchers at the Tenement Museum encountered in a city directory a second Joseph Moore, another waiter who lived in a nearby neighborhood, also in 1869.

The second Joseph Moore, however, is listed as “colorful”. Although born as a free black man, this Moore was born in New Jersey before slavery was completely abolished in the state.

WBUR reports that museum educator Darryl Hamilton, a descendant of black and Irish immigrants, discovered the city’s list. Upon discovery, he said: “What a great opportunity to have a curation on how we have common ground between these two Joseph Moores.”

Plus, as WBUR puts it, the discovery “ignited the spark ignited by last year’s racial calculus.”

The Tenement Museum is now ready to recreate an apartment for black Joseph Moore, who has never lived in the building. The recreation on the fifth floor of 97 Orchard Street is part of the Museum’s “Reclaiming Black Spaces” initiative.

However, the Daily Mail reports that the museum “replaces the story of an Irish family who resided in the building at 103 Orchard Street in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with that of a black man – who worked near of the building and lived in New Jersey for much of their life. “(The Irish Moore family lived at 97 Orchard Street, not 103 Orchard Street.)

The Daily Mail quotes Peter Van Buren, a former museum educator, who now criticizes the organization’s “awakening” in an article he wrote for The Spectator.

“The stories have been rewritten” at the museum, writes Van Buren, adding, “for example, Irish immigrants went from anti-Catholic discrimination in protesting New York to the murder of innocent blacks during the riots of 1863. Few matters that the Irish a family brought to light by the museum lived there in 1869 and had no connection with the riots.We were on a waking jihad.

He continues: “This awakening, which pushed me to stop [the museum], is now heading to a new low in a desperate attempt to bring a black family into the mix.

“The museum plans for the first time not only to present the story of a family who never lived there but who weren’t even immigrants. They were born in New Jersey.

To accommodate this change, the museum will be cutting its current Irish family visit instead of a hybrid to focus on the suffering of blacks and minimize real life experiences of discrimination imposed on the Irish by New Yorkers. “whiter”. “

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Earlier in June, museum president Annie Polland told the New York Times that Joseph Moore’s black story would not replace Moore’s Irish story. Instead, the museum would offer a ‘hybrid’ tour telling the contrasting stories of the two men and inviting visitors to reflect on their different experiences.

As the New York Times notes, “The museum speaks of Moore as some sort of internal immigrant, coming to New York to seek opportunities, and perhaps greater security, at a time when the Fugitive Slave Act even put free blacks in danger of kidnapping. “

Principal researcher Lauren O’Brien told the New York Times: “The museum has always looked at how people become Americans, but what does it mean to be born American without being seen as American?

Moore was listed as living in New Jersey from 1880, but O’Brien said the trail turned cold afterwards. She said Moore likely did not enjoy the same upward movement on the socio-economic ladder as her working-class white immigrant counterparts.

“You don’t have that neat and clean ending. There is no resolution to be considered an American.”

Polland said the museum is reshaping each visit offered to the museum to explore how race and racism shaped the opportunities offered to white immigrants.

“Basically we take everything apart and put it back together,” Polland said. “Ideas about race were important in understanding the experience of every family, every moment, in New York City and on the Lower East Side.”

IrishCentral has contacted the New York Tenement Museum for comment.


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