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March 24, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Eagle Discovers Gaps in Massive EDC Study

Excludes Key Documents Related To Alleged Underground Railroad Homes

BROOKLYN 3/23/07 – The Brooklyn Eagle published today important new information showing that the Economic Development Corportation (EDC) and AKRF failed to do its job in exploring the claims of the historical connection between Duffield Street and the Underground Railroad movement. The homes are slated for destruction by eminent domain as part of the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan.

The EDC released a 500+ page report purporting to the an exhaustive exploration of the history of the Underground Railroad in Downtown Brooklyn, including contacts with the descendents of known Abolitionists who live there such as Paul Truesdell. The EDC report states "To Mr. Truesdell knowledge, there are no family oral traditions related to the Truesdell family's potential involvement in the Underground Railroad." (page S-23)

To quote the Daily Eagle at length (article, subscription required):

Despite records showing that Harriet and Thomas Truesdell, who lived there from 1851 to 1863, had a long history of activism in the abolitionist movement and entertained prominent abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, the study found insufficient documentation proving that they actually helped African-Americans escape slavery.

But AKRF was made aware of documentation that could have been critical in proving that involvement, if it existed, according to Paul E. Truesdell, Jr., the great-grandson of Thomas Truesdell, who was contacted by AKRF for the study.

Paul, a retired chief hospital corpsman for the U.S. Navy living in Japan, told the Eagle, "I do have [Thomas Truesdell's] cash journal which covers the period June 1844 through January 1864.

"I have offered the journal to AKRF," he said, "but have had no response regarding this.

The 12 expert panelists AKRF hired to review its research were not made aware that such documents existed, according to the six who were reached by the Eagle.

"I just can't believe that this document exists. I mean, literally this is the first time that I'm hearing about it," said Cheryl LaRoche, a professor at the University of Maryland who was hired as a peer review panelist because of her extensive research on the Underground Railroad. "To look over that to see if there are any names on it, or what this ledger is, would be extremely important."

"It just seems to indicate that they're hired not to find the truth, despite all the efforts that [AKRF] did put into producing this study," said panelist Jim Driscoll, a researcher for the Queens Historical Society who co-authored "Angels of Deliverance: The Underground Railroad in Queens, Long Island, and Beyond."

The EDC and AKRF, the private firm hired to do the research, was caught lying to the City Council in the summer of 2004. The EDC claimed that there was no historical evidence for the historical connection to the Underground Railroad, citing Christopher Moore of the Schomberg Center, among others. Moore later testified that he had not been consulted, forcing the EDC and AKRF to write another report.

The City Council will examine the issue again at a public hearing on April 11.
Where: City Hall
When: Wednesday April 11, 11am
Who: Landmarks Subcommittee

Posted by lumi at March 24, 2007 8:33 AM