ColoredOrphanAsylumRiots.NewYorker

The Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue in New York City was singled out for destruction during the infamous Draft Riots of 1863, during the U.S. Civil War; the rioters’ goal was to murder Black children. Quick thinking saved the 233 residents, but the home was completely burned down. Now, of course, the location in Midtown is prime real estate, just a pile of bricks, and a developer wants to put up a 70-story skyscraper. But might there be some evidence in the rubble of the innocent children who once lived there? A shoe, part of a schoolbook, a tin plate they once ate from? A study years ago by the Landmarks Preservation Commission stated the site was not a good candidate for an archeological dig, but seldom is a location in New York completely free of artifacts. The sacking of the orphanage was one of the most shameful episodes in city history – “Burn the niggers’ nest,” rioters shouted – and a veteran preservationist writes that the time is now to do some digging. (Harper’s Weekly, 1863)

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