Living Landscape

Mapping Community Stories

Introduction: Our Living Landscape

Introduction: Our Living Landscape

“Living Landscape” is a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project that looks at the original Morris and Jumel Family estates (fifty blocks of today’s Washington Heights and Harlem neighborhoods in Manhattan) through a geographical lens. Stories are framed around the land’s original inhabitants, the Lenape people, members of the African American community, and today’s Dominican-American community. Together, these stories represent a microcosm of American history, weaving together the strands of migration, colonization, enslavement, urbanization, and the ever-changing meaning of American identity and citizenship. 

As the oldest surviving house in Manhattan, Morris-Jumel Mansion has borne witness to much of New York City’s rich and diverse history. Built in 1765 for the Morris family, the original property was located on the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people and was comprised of approximately 135 acres. On a contemporary map of New York City, the former estate boundaries run between 159th and 174th streets, and from the Harlem River to the Hudson River at its northernmost point. Today, the property is now home to a diverse and growing population of transplanted United States citizens and immigrants. Since the founding of the museum on this site in 1904, the interpretation of the institution has transitioned from a site commemorating General George Washington’s 1776 occupation during the Revolutionary War to that of its storied and longest-tenured resident Eliza Jumel; to today’s iteration as an inclusive community cultural center. As one of the nation’s foremost historic houses, Morris Jumel Mansion strives to empower audiences to create relevant, contemporary connections to the building, its collections, the land, and its people, past and present. 

The Living Landscape” project explores key areas of the history of the land once comprising the Morris and Jumel family estates to provide a more comprehensive telling of history. In this project, you will find a variety of audio and visual resources that serve to explore the various histories of this land and the communities that lived and live within it.

Land Acknowledgment

The Morris-Jumel Mansion is located on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Lenape people

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'Mannahatta' was the Lenape name for Manhattan, meaning 'land of many hills'

The Lenape Homeland (B.C. - Today)

The Lenape Homeland (B.C. - Today)

Jennifer Thermes, Illustration of The Island of Manhattan, from the book MANHATTAN: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes,

The Morris-Jumel Mansion and the surrounding 130 acres that comprised the estate was built on the ancestral homelands of the Munsee Lenape and Wappinger Nations. The Lenape (also known as the Leni (or Lenni) Lenape and Delaware people, are an Indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands.1 They lived in what is now known as Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. The areas they inhabited since are referred to as Lenapehoking or “land of the original people”.

When first encountered by Early European settlers, the Lenape were identified as a loose association of related peoples who spoke similar languages and had shared familial bonds. The Lenape identified themselves by the place they lived and who they lived with. 

The Lenape are a people for whom the natural landscape had provided all that they and their ancestors required for more than four hundred generations before Henry Hudson and other early explorers arrived. The Lenape lived entirely within their local means, gathering everything they needed from the immediate natural environment.2 They lived a mobile and productive life, moving to hunt and fish and plant depending on the season and they had settlements in today’s Chinatown, Upper East Side, and Inwood, and fishing camps along the cliffs of Washington Heights and the bays of the East River. The Lenape shaped the landscape with fire, sometimes disturbing flocks of grassland birds. They set controlled fires to clear land for horticulture, to make trails passable, and to create hunting grounds, like the meadows of Harlem. They also cleared land near settlement sites for horticulture. The Lenape grew mixed fields of corn, beans, and squash; gathered abundant wild foods from the productive waters and abundant woods; and conceived that relationship to the environment and each other in ways that emphasized respect, community, and balance. 

George Hayward, “Illustration of An Indian village of the Manhattans, prior to the occupation by the Dutch,” 1858, Valentine’s Manual, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library

A rich belief system was passed down from community to community through storytelling among the Lenape. North America owes its identification as “Turtle Island” to the Lenape and other native Algonquin peoples. Despite not having a written language, nor an awareness of currency and property in the same way we understand it, the lives of these early Lenape were centered around community, place and family. These values allowed them to exist on and persist on the land for thousands of years. 

The Lenape observed phratry, or clan designations. a recognition of shared lineage between individuals of the same clan. The three dominant clans are the wolf, the turtle, and the turkey, and are determined through a mother’s lineage. In every Lenape community, there were people from all three clans. Marriage with the same clan was not permitted. For instance, someone from the turtle clan could not marry another member of the turtle clan.

On Mannahatta

On Mannahatta

Map of Lenape languages and tribes, Wikicommons

There were at least three communities of Lenape on Mannahatta island—the Wiechquaeseck, Rechgawawank, and the Manahate – and all of these communities would have had contact with one another and with neighboring groups. The Wiechquaeseck are thought to have been the most numerous among these communities, and lived in what is today northern Manhattan, the western Bronx, and northward into Westchester county.3

It is likely that Munsee was originally spoken here. Recordings of common words and phrases relating to the Morris-Jumel Mansion and the land it sits on, can be found here, recorded by Munsee-Lenape teacher and Translator Nikole Pecore.

Early Impressions of the Homeland: A Colonial Perspective

Early Impressions of the Homeland: A Colonial Perspective

A lot of what was known about the abundance of the land prior to colonial contact came from the accounts of 17th-century travelers and explorers. English essayist, Daniel Denton, for example, documented and described the reactions of early Europeans upon encountering the lands of what we call New York today.4 According to Denton, the enchanting “sweetness of the air” could be detected far out at sea. The effect of breathing that air was thought to be healing—there was speculation that it could “cure colds, consumption, and other respiratory ailments. Denton also described sweeping woods and fields, “curiously bedecked with roses” and with an “innumerable multitude of delightful flowers.” 

The grandeur of the land  and – “the sheer abundance of things”  encountered, seems to have made a profound impression on early European travelers to Lenapehoking. The early explorers shared descriptions of the vast meadows of grass “as high as man’s middle” and forests with towering stands of walnut, cedar, chestnut, maple, and oak. Orchards bore apples of incomparable sweetness and pears larger than a fist.” During the Spring the hills and fields would appear as if they had been “dyed red with the ripening strawberries,” and so many birds filled the woods that “men can scarcely go through them for the whistling, the noise, and the chattering.” 5 Schools of whales, seals, and porpoises escorted boats crossing the bay. Streams and ponds thrived with plenty of fish that could be caught by hand. The offshore waters were full of sizable oysters and lobsters. 

From some of these early accounts, it is noted that bears, wolves, foxes, raccoons, otters, beavers, quail, and partridge swarmed the woods and tidal marshlands. Numerous deer would be seen jumping, resting or feeding. Wild turkeys and doves were so abundant that they could block out the light  when they would fly Europeans would soon view ecological abundance as an opportunity for commodification.6

In his book, A Description of the New Netherlands, Dutch lawyer Adriaen van der Donck, a  political leader and rival of Peter Stuyvesant, the colony’s director-general, provides details about 17th-century life in the colony specifically related to expectations for new settlers and possible trade opportunities. He wrote:


“The Country is well calculated. First, it is a fine fruitful island, by which the productions of the island can be brought to traffic. The Indians, without labour or trouble, bring us their fur trade, worth tons of gold, which may be increased, and is like goods found. To which may be added the grain and provision trade, which we proudly enjoy…The Country is so convenient to the sea that its value is enhanced by its situation. On the northeast, within four or five days sail, lay the valuable fishing banks.” 7
Dispelling The Myth of the Sale of Mannahatta

Dispelling The Myth of the Sale of Mannahatta

The story of Peter Minuit and the sale of Manhattan found in history books today has traditionally been told from the Dutch perspective: the Lenape people living on the island, sold their land to the arriving Dutch settlers in the 1600s for the equivalent value of $24. This myth — repeated in books and brought to life in illustrations — casts Native Americans as gullible people who traded valuable lands and beaver pelts for colorful European-made “beads and baubles”. However, no written proof exists that this is what truly happened. A 1626 letter with second-hand accounts written by a Dutch official, helped propagate the story of the mythical sale of Manahatta, detailing that the settlers offered representatives of local Lenape groups sixty guilders, in trade goods for their homeland, Mannahatta. 


Rcvd. 7 November 1626
High and Mighty Lords,
Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23d of September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size [about 22,000 acres]. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May, and reaped by the middle of August. They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:
7246 Beaver skins
178½ Otter skins
675 Otter skins
48 Mink skins
36 Lynx skins
33 Minks
34 Muskrat skins
Many oak timbers and nut wood. Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty,
In Amsterdam, the 5th of November anno 1626.
Your High and Mightinesses’ obedient, P.Schaghen


The 1626 letter from Peter Schaghen, who was the liaison between the Dutch government and the Dutch

The first written treaty between the United States and an Indian Nation, the Treaty with the Delawares, 1778, National Archives at Washington

West India Company, makes the earliest known reference to the Dutch West India company’s supposed “purchase” of Manhattan Island from the Lenape. In the letter, Schaghen reports the arrival of the ship Wapen van Amsterdam from the New Netherland colony.8

Schegen’s letter, which has been referenced countless times to support the stories of the beginning of “New York CIty,” raises more questions than answers. Schegen’s letter was written in the Netherlands and gives a second hand account-meaning he did not personally witness the event. The letter does not give a date of the “sale,” nor list who were present and the figure of $24 was a mid-19th century estimate of the value of 60 guilders.9

Moreover, it is unlikely that Lenape saw the original transaction as a sale. The idea of selling land in perpetuity, to be regarded as property, would have been foreign to native societies at the time. Historians who now try to reconstruct early transactions between Europeans and Native Americans differ over whether the Lenape considered it an agreement for the Dutch to use, but not own, Manahatta (the majority view), or whether even as early as 1626, Indigenous people had engaged in enough trade to understand European economic ideas. 10We cannot ever truly know what exactly transpired in 1629 between Lenape and Dutch representatives during this meeting; it is likely, however, that each side viewed the “transaction” very differently. ”11

Nature as Catalyst

Nature as Catalyst

American Crab Apple, pyrus coronaria,

The Lenape were and still are expert botanists and horticulturists, possessing a wealth of knowledge of plants that were used for food and medicinal purposes. They respect nature, and historically when the plants were gathered, an offering of thanks was made to the plant spirit with gifts of tobacco. The Lenape are often considered early conservationists and environmentalists, stewarding natural resources for use by future generations.

Grown and harvested by the Lenape, the Winakw, commonly known as sassafras (Sassafras albidum), is a healing plant with multiple medicinal properties and is typically administered in teas or in the form of an infusion. The sassafras leaf is the symbol of the Lenape Center, a New York City-based non-profit that continues Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland through community, culture, and the arts.

The Open Orchard project, an initiative of artist Sam Van Aken, is part of several efforts that seek to restore and pre­serve some of the lost biodiversity that existed in the native homeland and all its ben­e­fits. In 2022, The Open Orchard project set out to plant 50 hybridized trees on Gov­er­nors Island in New York, each one bear­ing mul­ti­ple vari­eties of peach­es, plums, apri­cots, cher­ries and apples once native to the land,  but that have since dis­ap­peared.

Birds native to the land that Morris-Jumel Mansion is located upon
Lenapehoking: Returning to the Homeland

Lenapehoking: Returning to the Homeland

Forced Migration of members of the Lenape Nation, Penn Museum in Philadelphia, Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

By the early 1700s the Lenape people were forced from their native homelands by plagues, destructive wars, and false and exploitative treaties. Due to centuries of genocide, forced displacement and systemic oppression, the Lenape today are dispersed all throughout the United States and Canada. 

On October 31, 2018, the Lenape community hosted the first ever Pow Wow on Manhattan Island since their forced removal from their homeland in the 1700s at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The event marked the first congregation of dispersed Lenape Elders in Manhattan since the forced migrations from the land. Organized with Lenape Elder George Stonefish, the Pow Wow provided an opportunity for members of the Lenape community and Native American New Yorkers to gather and celebrate their culture, and for the greater New York City community to learn about the Lenape’s historical and cultural ties to the region. The eight-hour event featured a symposium of conversations with Lenape Elders, historians, and activists, along with film presentations, First Nation fashion, and special performances by Indigenous dancers, singers, musicians, and story-tellers. 

The term Pow Wow is anglicized from the Algonquian “pau-wau” or “pauau” and adopted by many Native Nations on Turtle Island as a social event to celebrate, honor, and mark significant occasions such as the Lenape’s return. Originally, Pow Wows for the different Native Nations were organized as a way for native people to congregate and to honor, preserve, and share culture. They also served an important role in the conduction of trade of dances, songs, pelts, shells, flints, and other necessities, while making new and cementing existing social and political alliances. Today, they prevail as social and celebratory opportunities to dance, come together, and recognize ancestors and shared histories.

Bear’s Dream

A poem from Rebecca Haff Lowry


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Meanings of Mannahata

The name Manhattan derives from the Munsee Lenape language term manaháhtaan (where manah- means “gather”, -aht- means “bow”, and -aan is used to form verb stems). The Lenape word has been translated as “the place where we get bows” or “place for gathering the (wood to make) bows.” According to a Munsee tradition recorded by Albert Seqaqkind Anthony in the 19th century, the island was named so for a grove of hickory trees at its southern end that was considered ideal for the making of bows. It was first recorded in writing as ‘Manna-hata’, in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson’s vessel  Halve Maen (Half Moon). A 1610 map depicts the name Mannahata twice, on both the east and west sides of the Mauritius River, later named the North River and ultimately the Hudson River. Alternative etymologies include the translation “island of many hills”.

Archeology at the Mansion

Archeological excavations performed in and around Roger Morris Park dating as far back as the early 20th century and its accompanying reports, located in archives of the City of New York and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, provide some insight into the potential use of the land prior to colonization. Archeologists have unearthed quartz fragments and debris that are likely to be projectile points of the Lamoka type. Lamoka type points date to the late Archaic period, which is approximately between 3,000-1,000 BCE, and are typically found in the area between eastern Ohio and New York. One report speculates that given the elevation of the site as well as the types of objects found, the site could have been used as a hunting camp. Other reports have been able to recreate indigenous travel trails that, if accurate, indicate there was heavy traffic passing through the land that is now Roger Morris Park. Archeological reports of Jumel Place show how these trails ran throughout the Washington Heights and Harlem areas, passing directly through Jumel Place and circumventing what is now the Morris-Jumel Mansion.

Lenape Language

The Algonquin-speaking peoples considered the Lenape as the original group of their nation’s spoken language. Unami and Munsee (Huluníixsuwaakan) are considered dialects of Lenape and both languages are at times referred to as Lenape or Delaware. These eastern Algonquian languages were originally spoken in Lenapehoking. 


Around the beginning of the 17th century, Unami and Munsee were spoken fluently by thousands of native individuals. Munsee is considered by most linguists as a distinct language, and is a polysynthetic language with complex verb morphology and fairly free word order in which a single word may function as a whole sentence. Until recently, only a handful of elders in Ontario still spoke the Munsee language.  

Although the native speakers who grew up speaking either dialects as their first language are no longer with us, younger generations are learning and ensuring the survival of their native Munsee and Unami language. In 2002, The Lenape Talking Dictionary was launched online as a digital resource for the education and preservation of the language. Currently, some Lenape language activists are trying to combine the Unami and Munsee languages into a single Lenape language to improve its chances of survival.

Nora Thompson Dean, Wenjipahkeehelehkwe, "Touching Leaves Woman" (1907 - 1984)

Nora Thompson Dean helped record the Lenape’s way of life, stories, and language. Born in “Indian Territory” shortly before it became the State of Oklahoma, Touching Leaves Woman was the last member of her tribe trained as a nentpikes, or traditional healer, one of the few remaining speakers of her language (Unami dialect), and one of the last full-blooded Lenape (Delaware) Indians.

As a young woman, Touching Leaves participated in the Big House rites and other important Lenape ceremonies which died out in the 1920s and 30s. Her later years were devoted to furthering knowledge of Lenape language and culture. She worked with numerous linguists, anthropologists and historians, and contributed to more than one hundred publications. Dr. David Oestreicher, recorded her memories, language and traditions, and is preparing her biography. Touching Leaves Woman was honored by a number of mayors and governors, including New York City’s Mayor Edward I. Koch and Governor Nigh of Oklahoma, who proclaimed her an “Oklahoma Ambassador of Good Will.”

Listen to Munsee Translations

Translator Nikole Pecore provides translations in Munsee to Common words with significance to the Morris-Jumel Mansion

Expansion and Diversification of Uptown (1613 - 1865)

Expansion and Diversification of Uptown (1613 - 1865)

Contact in Early Harlem

Contact in Early Harlem

Townsend MacCoun, "The island of Manhattan (Mannahtin) at the time of its discovery," 1909, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library

Charles LillyArt and Artifacts Division, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The first non-Native settler on the island of Manhattan is thought to be a seaman by the name of Juan Rodriguez (also known as Jan Rodrigues  or João Rodrigues [Portuguese]). Rodriguez arrived on a ship sailing from the Netherlands, named the Jonge Tobias, whose Captain was a Dutch explorer named Thys Volchertz Mossel. Rodriguez was in his late thirties or early forties when he arrived. Described as a free “mulatto” of African and Portuguese descent, Rodriguez was born on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (today’s Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti) in Santo Domingo, the oldest European-founded city in the Americas.

It is documented that Rodriguez spent some time in the area of Mannahatta and chose not to leave when the Jonge Tobias was ready to return to the Netherlands.12 Rodriguez was said to be conversant in several languages, having learned to communicate with the local native communities of the area. In quickly acclimating himself to his new surroundings, Rodriguez established a trading post among his Lenape neighbors. He also engaged with the crews of arriving Dutch ships in port, For example,  in August of 1613 Rodriguez presented himself as a “free man” to the captain of The Fortuyn, Hendrick Christiansen, and offered his services as an interpreter with the native communities of Rockaway.13

Rodriguez’ enterprising arrangements were apparently the source of later tensions between himself and Thys Volchertz Mossel. By historians’ accounts, when the captain of the Jonge Tobias returned, he castigated Rodriguez as a “Black Rascal” for working for other crews, and worse, wounded his former crewman in a physical altercation. It was Christiansen’s crew of  The Fortuyn that purportedly came  to Rodriguez’ defense and protected him from further harm.  

In 1613, fur trader Adriaen Block reported to the Amsterdam Notary that Mossel tried to interfere with a trade by offering triple the amount that was commonly given for a beaver. In Block’s report he provides an account that provides insight on Rodriguez: 


“Crewman Rodrigues had become a permanent fixture in the Manhattan frontier, trading and living alone among the natives. When the said Mossel sailed away from the river with his ship, Rodrigues born in Santo Domingo, who had arrived there in the ship of said Mossel, stayed ashore at the same place. They had given Rodrigues eighty hatchets, some knives, a musket and a sword.” 14

It is inferred from Block’s report that Rodriguez chose to live on the island, established a relationship with native groups, set up a trading post, and may have been accepted into the local native community as a preferred trader. Some historical evidence exists to suggest he was absorbed into the New Amsterdam community and was still residing in the city as late as the 1640’s. Rodriguez is believed to have integrated into local life and formed a family with a Native woman from the Rockaway community. 

According to historian Leslie M. Harris, Rodriguez’ proactive role in trade and his marriage into a Native community both influenced the commercial and cultural exchanges for which Manhattan would become known.15

Today, Rodriguez is identified as the first non-white settler to chose to live on Manhattan, the first Dominican settler, and an individual who represents the identity of many Afro-Latino New Yorkers–who similarly have European, African, Caribbean, and Native American ancestry. Rodriguez would remain the only known non-native settler of European and West African ancestry on the island of Mannahatta until 1621.

Map of Santo Domingo (Mapa de la Isla de Santo Domingo), 1858, Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
Expanding Settlements in Upper Manhattan

Expanding Settlements in Upper Manhattan

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both Dutch and British colonizers used propaganda to lure settlers to Manhattan Island with the promise of better lives. During the early years of Dutch occupation, many Dutch citizens had little interest in leaving an economically prosperous Netherlands for the Colony of New Netherland. Once established, settlers began exploiting indigenous communities, exhausting the island’s fertile resources, and developing infrastructure and systems to provide and build wealth for themselves. 

In 1626, the first African enslaved individuals, 11 in total, arrived in New Amsterdam,and were bought from pirates who stole Spanish ships. By 1644, Africans were being brought directly to New Amsterdam from Africa. In 1658 Peter Stuyvesant ordered the colony’s enslaved Africans to build a wagon road from the New Amsterdam settlement in Lower Manhattan to the newly incorporated settlement of New Harlem in Upper Manhattan. Under the administration of the Dutch West Indies Company, enslaved Africans and white indentured servants were considered a single social class, and were subject to the same restrictions regarding personal freedom, and property ownership limits. This combined class was allowed to come and go freely, and many eventually bought their own freedom and were allowed to purchase marshy plots of land in lower Manhattan for their farms. By 1664, when rule of the Dutch colony was ceded to the English, 174 enslaved men and 132 enslaved women had arrived. Two years later, there were thirty documented Black property owners in the region while New York boasted the biggest slave market in North America, located on Wall Street. 

While most of the Dutch settlement of the island was concentrated in the southern portion, Northern Manhattan remained largely untouched by settlers until 1637, when brothers Hendrick and Isaac de Forest and Johannes Mousnier de La Montagne boarded the Rensselaerswijck, a ship from the Netherlands, to claim fertile farmlands north of the New Amsterdam settlement. Three resulting plantations began to take on the character of a permanent settlement, centering around farming, animal husbandry, church, and family. On March 4th, 1658, the Common Council of the City of New Amsterdam passed an eight-point ordinance granting privileges to settlers wanting to come northward to the new settlement named Nieuw Haarlem. It stated that this settlement would be established “for the further promotion of farming[,] for the security of this island and the cattle pasturing thereon [and for] further amusement and development of the city of New Amsterdam.” Within this new village of Haarlem, located from today’s 111th to 125th Streets on the east side of the island, each settler was able to purchase one of the twenty-five village lots of 24-48 acres and six acres of salt meadows, though not adjacent to their village lots. The community, which was a half-day’s march to Lower Manhattan, served as a military buffer for New Amsterdam, and soon included a cattle market and ferry service.

In 1664 when the island became a British colony, Harlem remained a remote outpost with
relatively limited businesses and services, while New Amsterdam, now named New York,  saw a century of rapid growth and urbanization. In 1666, the first survey of the island was completed and speculators began planning for Harlem’s expansion as a major stop on the Post Road to Boston. Three years later, the governor formed a commission which forced enslaved persons to improve uptown roads, concentrating on leveling and expanding the indigenous footpath that led from the northern tip of the island to New York, which was thought to be “impassable” by settlers. After three years, the road was in such a condition that wagons could travel reliably along the route. However, the road remained remote, in some places traversing across a wilderness inhabited by bears and panthers alongside the Lenape who still remained on the northernmost part of the island. By 1685, the settlers had decimated the wolf population and drove out most of the last remaining Natives. The area around today’s Morris-Jumel Mansion was close to the fork where travelers could choose to take the Post Road down the east side of the island or the Bloomingdale’s Road, later named Broadway, to the west.

Much economic activity in Northern Manhattan was made possible by the labor of enslaved Africans and indigenous people. In the late seventeenth century, more than a third of the island’s population comprised free and enslaved Africans. Of the few free and enslaved Africans who lived in Haarlem, communities were mostly tiny, self-contained, and relatively independent, with separate markets and establishments for eating, drinking, and entertainment. According to author Jonathan Gill in his book Harlem, Harlem’s Dutch black population “lived in their own homes and continued to work with relative freedom from the discrimination and violence encountered in the southern colonies, which was also becoming more common downtown.”

Race relations remained tense during the British occupation of the island, with new laws and regulations passed to exert more control over people of color. Enslaved individuals now had to carry passes to travel and  were prevented from participating in trade with whites, owning guns, or meeting in public in large numbers.

“Harlem,” 1869, The New York Public Library Digital Collections. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection.

In 1669, one of the enslaved individuals owned by Daniel Tourneu, an early Harlem settler, fled northinto theisland’s dense forests. British officials launched a full-scale police pursuit of the individual, and the escape caused a public outcry. One of Daniel Tourneu’’s sons, Thomas, would later purchase lot numbers sixteen and seventeen from the Township of Harlem – the land that today comprises the Morris-Jumel Mansion.

In 1711, at the time of the creation of the city’s Slave Market, there were eighty-four enslaved individuals in Harlem (then termed the “Out Ward”), which was a quarter of the ward’s population. Over half of Harlem’s white families were enslavers of Blacks.  

The following year marked the first time that the entire “Out Ward” was properly surveyed. Despite the growing population of the area, most of the land remained thickly forested for subsequent decades. During the mid-eighteenth century, wealthy New Yorkers had country homes built in today’s Northern Manhattan to escape the crime, grime, and disease that was plaguing the rapidly growing city. Soon, the region became known as an entertainment and leisure destination for travelers. However, Harlem’s permanent residents remained deeply influenced by the Dutch way of life and largely favored independence from the British crown.16

From the Collection

Items from our collection relating to enslaved labor in New York City and the Morris-Jumel Mansion

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Enslaved Labor and the Morris and Jumel Estates

Enslaved Labor and the Morris and Jumel Estates

The land and the money used to build Morris-Jumel Mansion (then called Mount Morris) in 1765, derived from Mary Philipse Morris’s Anglo-Dutch merchant family, their landholdings, and their connection to the African slave trade. Although Mary Phillipse Morris (1730-1825) and her husband Roger Morris (1727-1794) oversaw the construction of Mount Morris, it is most probable that the Mansion itself would have been constructed by enslaved Black individuals, who later would do much of the labor that enabled the Morris family to live well. Around this time, enslaved people made up twenty percent of the population of New York City in the colonial period.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion is a fine example, the only remaining eighteenth-century country, or “summer” homes located uptown. The home was designed in modern taste, drawing from fashionable architectural trends in England. As Jonathan Gill states, the home’s “combination of style and function represented the democratic yearning of the incipient republic as well as its dependence on the traffic in African lives and labor.”17 Within the home, the Morrises entertained wealthy guests with lavish dinner parties, including one attended by the governor of New Jersey. Enslaved Black servants would have done the cooking, serving, and other domestic labor that made such events possible.

The Morris family’s social status and circumstances were similar to other prosperous families in the colonies. During Mary Morris’s youth – as Mary Philipse – she would have grown up with enslaved people in her parents’ household, as the Philipse family was heavily involved in the slave trade, and her father Frederick Philipse II listed fifty enslaved people among his possessions in his will. According to her father’s will, Mary inherited two enslaved women, named Sarah and Hannah, at the time of his death in 1751. Hannah may have been previously enslaved by Mary’s great-uncle Adolph Philipse who died in 1750. This would mean that twice in as many years, Hannah would have dealt with the anxiety that came with the death of an enslaver, including that of being separated from the community of other enslaved kith and kin.

Correspondence between Roger and Mary offers some insight into the inner workings of the estate. The letters, which largely discuss business and familial matters, mention a woman named Sally who sews the Colonel’s shirts, a “loyal” family gardener, and a “Cuban” woman whom Mary had fired other servants or enslaved individuals named Jack, Laba, Martha, and Cuba (it is unclear if (or possible that) the Cuban woman and Cuba are one and the same person). In one letter, Colonel Morris states: “I own we have had such ill luck, in the white servants, that I shall be fearful of success when I send another.” In a letter from March 2, 1777, herefers to a letter from his wife mentioning that the family “had parted with Cuba, & [sic] now that Martha has been taken from you. I’m afraid we shall miss Cuba.”

It is unclear what happened to individuals enslaved at Morris-Jumel when the Morrises fled their country home

“View of the Jet at Harlem River,” 1843, from Illustrations of the Croton Aqueduct, Engraved by William James Bennett (American, London 1787–1844 New York), After Fayette Bartholomew Tower (American, 1817–1857), Wiley & Putnam (New York), The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.

at the onset of the Revolution. Some may have joined the British army, as the British, upon attaining control of New York City, promised manumission to enslaved Blacks who helped with the fighting. However, When the Morrises tried to retrieve their property after the war, their case presented before the Commission on American Loyalist Claims on April, 12, 1783, did not claim formerly enslaved Black servants, although racial slavery persisted in the state. 18

Slavery in New York During the Nineteenth Century

Slavery in New York During the Nineteenth Century

During the eighteenth century, much of New York’s economy benefited directly from the brutal slave economies. Many households held only one or two slaves, which often meant arduous, and isolating labor. Moreover, because of the cramped living spaces of New York City,  keeping families together often proved difficult. It was not uncommon for enslavers to sell young mothers and their young children. 

The Black population in New York State tripled in the post-Revolution years, and in 1785, the New York Manumission Society was formed to promote the gradual abolition of slavery. The organization often referred to the ideals of the Revolution in their arguments on behalf of the enslaved.19

By 1810, the same year that Stephen and Eliza Jumel would purchase the former Morris Estate, the freed population of Black New York outnumbered the enslaved three to one. In a newspaper article from 1830, Stephen Jumel offers a one-cent reward for information relating to two runaways (of unspecified race), William Carr (age 16) and Louise Pai (age 8). It is unknown whether the people referenced were free, indentured, or enslaved runaways. 

However, things were far from easy for Black New Yorkers during this period. Enslaved or free, Black people lived with the constant threat of abduction and subsequent sale in slave states- a practice that came to be known as “Blackbirding” or the Reverse Underground Railroad, which was active from 1780 to 1865. There are several accounts of the New York Manumission Society and the New York Committee of Vigilance coming to the aid of kidnapping victims during this time.

Thousands of free Black Americans were kidnapped from Northern states by human traffickers and slave traders in order to sell them in the Southern states in the decades before the Civil War. Among the most notableindividuals to be kidnapped and enslaved this way was Solomon Northup, author of the famous memoir, Twelve Years A Slave. After his abduction, Northup’s wife Anne and their children lived with and worked for Eliza Jumel in the 1840s. Unlike Northup, most of the individuals who were kidnapped were impoverished children, who could be easily lured away and sold off in the deep South.

Ad taken out by Stephen Jumel, published in The Evening Post (New York, NY) February 30, 1830, P. 3.

The Modern Black Experience (1865 - Today)

The Modern Black Experience (1865 - Today)

Migrating and Settling Uptown

Migrating and Settling Uptown

The Great Migration was one of the largest movements of people in United States history. From the 1910s to the 1970s, approximately six million Black people moved from the American South to New York and other big cities in the northeast, midwest, and western states. Major impetuses behind the mass exodus were escaping racial tension, terrorism, and violence that were prevalent in the South, to pursue economic and educational opportunities, and to obtain freedom from oppressive “Jim Crow” segregation laws and restrictions which enforced their civic disenfranchisement.

Enlistment Record for Walter Katto of 434 W. 163rd Street from the 369th “Harlem Hellfighter” Infantry, 1924

During the First Great Migration (1910-1940), Black southerners arrived in Northern Manhattan in areas south of the Morris-Jumel Mansion. The city’s labor supply was strained as a result of a decline in immigration from Northern Europe, strict quotas on immigration from Southern Europe, and bans on people of color from other parts of the world. In 1917, as efforts continued to support America’s allies during the Great War (World War I), able-bodied men were soldered off to the conflict in Europe. On the American homefront, vacated industrial jobs once monopolized by white workers opened notable opportunities for Black southern workers to obtain non-agricultural jobs that were previously closed to them. Additionally, many of the area’s young Black men would enlist in the 369th Infantry, which would be known as the  Harlem Hellfighters, which was a regiment that consisted mainly of African Americans. With the 370th Infantry Regiment in Illinois, the Harlem Hellfighters was the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War.

Despite racial discrimination in housing, many Black communities appeared to thrive as distinctivecities within big cities, vibrant urban cultural enclaves that held the mainstream in thrall. The preeminent example of these was Harlem, a long predominantly white neighborhood that by the 1920s housed approximately 200,000 Black residents. Areas north of Harlem, including Sugar Hill and regions of today’s Washington Heights also saw increases in the number of Black families throughout the next several decades. 

James Weldon Johnson (Lyricist and Composer) of 437 W. 162nd Street, “Lift every voice and sing: national hymn for the colored people of America,” © 1900

The Black experience during the Great Migration, which fostered the artistic currents known as the New Negro Movement and the Harlem Renaissance, had an indelible impact on the culture of the era. One principal residential center that was of Black Harlem’s burgeoning cultural and artistic activity was 555 Edgecombe Avenue, a building located across the street from the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Other buildings in the surrounding area were home to many Black Americans that made significant contributions in the arts, law, education, and public policy. 

Like much of America, Black Harlem through the Great Depression (1929-1939), The New Deal (1933-1939), and World War II (1939-1945), can be characterized by changing economic and social circumstances, some which resulted in complicated responses of a resilient community to racism and poverty. 

In the decades that followed, the mass influx of migrants to the area fueled an era of heightened political activism among Black Americans. Having emerged from disenfranchisement in the South, many found a voice in public life in the North, from which the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s would directly benefit. 

Black New Yorkers still faced many forms of discrimination, including the notorious “redlining” practices which barred them from living in certain areas or obtaining property loans. These measures created segregated neighborhoods, and also served as a foundation for the existing racial, political, and economic disparities. 

According to the 1950s census, the population of the area in New York’s census tract 1715, which comprises most of the Jumel Terrace Historic District consisted of 90% Black individuals, many of whom were born in the British West Indies. The 10% of the population that identified as white were predominantly born in Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Greece, Germany, Egypt, Russia, France, and England.

A Landscape of Historic Buildings with New Neighbors

A Landscape of Historic Buildings with New Neighbors

People consider Harlem to be homogeneous, but in 409 and 555 and other places, you had a co-existence of Black people of all kinds…

Karen Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of While We are Still Here
Percy Loomis Sperr, "Sylvan Terrace," 1934 - 1941, Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library

555 Edgecombe Avenue, Paul Robeson Residence

Roger Morris Park, Morris Jumel Mansion, View South from Roof of Roger Morris Apt House of 555 Edgecombe, 1934, NYC Parks Photo Archives

South of Morris-Jumel Mansion today, stands a pre-war apartment building built in 1914-1916 in the Beaux-Arts style by famed architects, Simon Schwartz and Arthur Gross. The residential building was erected as the Roger Morris Apartments, and soon became known as “555” or the “Triple Nickel.” During the mid-twentieth century, 555 Edgecombe Avenue was known as the home of several of New York’s successful Black Americans, and was considered a part of Harlem’s Sugar Hill Neighborhood. 

Originally constructed as the Roger Morris Apartments, 555 Edgecombe Avenue was built during a period of major residential development in the area, and is considered to be among the neighborhood’s most impressive residential buildings. The building was initially exclusive to white tenants, and did not “open” to Black tenants until 1939, by which time the racial demographic of the neighborhood had markedly changed. In 1940 the building’s tenant population shifted to almost exclusively AfricanAmerican, and according to census records from 1950, only four of the building’s residents were white and all lived in different households. 

Due to its sizable apartments and spectacular views, the building attracted a number of America’s most famous Black citizens including such luminary figures as Paul Robeson and Eslanda Goode Robeson, jazz musician Count Basie, actor Canada Lee, and psychologist Kenneth Clark, as well as countless white-collar workers and professionals.

As a part of a program to honor Black history during the American Bicentennial in 1976, the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation lobbied for the building to be designated a National Historic Landmark and renamed in honor of former resident, musician and actor, Paul Roebson, who passed away in January of that year. The landmarking was successful; and the building became a New York City landmark in 1993. 

Jumel Terrace Historic District

14-18 Sylvan Terrace, 1941, Courtesy of NYC Municipal Archives

The area surrounding the Morris-Jumel Mansion, known as the Jumel Terrace Historic District, was landmarked by New York City in 1970 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The district consists of 50 residential row houses built between 1890 and 1902, and one apartment building constructed in 1909. 

Famous actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson, who had once lived at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, ultimately resided across from the Morris-Jumel Mansion at 16 Jumel Terrace, a single-family townhouse. While living there, Robeson wrote about his ancestral connection with the Mansion property’s long history in his autobiography, Here I Stand (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958): 


“I am an American. From my window [in 16 Jumel Terrace] I gaze out upon a scene that reminds me how deep-going are the roots of my people in this land. Across the street, carefully preserved as an historic shrine, is a colonial mansion that served as a headquarters for General George Washington in 1776….among those who came to offer help in that desperate hour was my great-great grandfather. He was Cyrus Bustill who was born a slave in New Jersey and had managed to purchase his freedom. He became a baker and it is recorded that George Washington thanked him for supplying bread to the starving Revolutionary Army.”

Many Black families have owned or resided in the surrounding Jumel Terrace Historic District in the past century, including legendary activist lawyer Eunice Hunton Carter; WWII flying ace and aviation writer James L.H. Peck; poet and civil rights activist Larry Neal; television and film actress Barbara Montgomery; music and cultural critic Greg Tate; actor Isaach de Bankolé; Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson; journalist and cultural commentator Playthell Benjamin; Broadway actress and pianist Marjorie Eliot; and singer songwriter Alicia Keys.

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Watch: The Black Population of Early Harlem

In this video, learn about the Black population of early Harlem, including more about the individuals whom the Morris family enslaved in the Eighteenth Century. This talk features long-time volunteer and docent Gregory Washington.

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Walking Tour: Exploring Black History in the Neighborhood

A walking tour exploring Black History. Situated on the border of Sugar Hill and Washington Heights, the museum and neighborhood have been shaped by Black history

Download the Tour

Our Stories: Black History at the Morris-Jumel Mansion

The stories of African Americans in and around the Morris-Jumel Mansion are a microcosm of the history of enslavement, abolition, and Black excellence in eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century New York City.

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Listen: Oral Histories from the Jumel Terrace Historic District, 1990

“Community Voices” is a compilation of oral history interviews with residents of the Jumel Terrace Historic District during October of 1990. The interviews reflect a part of the community’s relationship with the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Most residents felt distanced from the Mansion as a museum in the middle decades of this century, but proudly identified with the Mansion as a physical part of their community. Around the time that the neighborhood won recognition as a historic district in 1970, the Mansion administration began efforts to open its doors to its neighbors.

Immigration and Expansion (1880 - Today)

Immigration and Expansion (1880 - Today)

The Dominican-American Experience in Washington Heights

Jennifer Thermes, Watercolor Illustrated map of Upper Manhattan, from the book MANHATTAN: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes,

Detail, Creative Art Works, Jan Rodriguez Mural, 2009, Harlem River Park, Photo courtesy Creative Art Works

Although the first documented non-native resident of Manhattan was Santo Domingo-born Juan Rodriguez, a free man of color who settled on the island in 1613, the city’s perceptible  Dominican community presence would not begin for more than two centuries later.

1892-1924: Dominican Arrival through Ellis Island

As immigration to the United States continued, Ellis Island, located along the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, saw millions of newly arrived immigrants pass through its doors. This historical site, which opened in 1892 as a port of immigration, served as the entry point for many new Americans until its closure in 1954. It has been estimated that close to forty percent of all current United States citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island. Ellis Island would also be an entrypoint for thousands of Dominicans who came to the island with the hopes of settling and ​​making it their new home.

According to a two-year study conducted by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (DSI) and  led by sociologist Dr. Ramona Hernández, approximately 5,000 Dominican nationals arrived between 1892 and 1924, through Ellis Island with 61 percent being men between the ages of  25 and 34 years old. These early arrivals included  government officials, office workers, merchants, professionals and students, among others, who settled in the communities of Northern Manhattan, including West and East Harlem. Many of these people came with the intent to establish U.S. citizenship and make New York home. In 1918, US authorities included citizenship questions for the first time in Ellis Island’s immigration documents or “manifesto” and a large number of Dominicans responded that they were interested in pursuing U.S. citizenship. These findings provide an earlier timeline and confirms that Dominicans have been a part of the Northern Manhattan living landscape much earlier than had been initially identified–establishing a large Dominican presence in New York prior to the Trujillo regime (1930-1961). 

According to DSI’s findings, some of the Dominicans entering Ellis Island were identified as black,carried between $30 – $50 dollars each when they arrived (a significant amount for the time period), and traveled in first class. The exact number of Dominican nationals who arrived through Ellis Island and who later became U.S. citizens is still unknown, and the number of naturalized individuals prior to 1918 is hard to determine, due to the fact that citizenship questions were not asked by customs officials prior to that date. 

The Immigration Act of 1924 (The Johnson-Reed Act) limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 Census, thereby heavily favoring immigration from Northern and Central Europe.20 The act, which Congress overwhelmingly passed and President Coolidge would sign into law, drastically reduced the total number of immigrants allowed in each year and effectively cut off all immigration from Asia. The permanent and strict quotas put in place at this time favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe and aimed to preserve the homogeneity of the nation. During this time, the U.S. Border Patrol was established and new immigrants were required to apply for and receive visas before arriving.21 This inevitably impacted the entry opportunities for Dominican Nationals, as well as other nationalities. 


At the end of the 1930s, approximately 37% of the greater Washington Heights area was Jewish, with many speaking mostly in German. During the 1930s and 1940s, the number of Dominicans who entered the United States and arrived in New York and Northern Manhattan fluctuated as the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (nicknamed “El Jefe”, who rose to power in 1930), imposed heavy restrictions on the outward migration of Dominican citizens.22 Many of the 1,150 Dominicans immigrating to the United States between 1931 and 1940 came as secondary labor migrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama.

Larger numbers of Dominicans began arriving to New York after 1950, during a time when severe fault-lines began to appear in the Trujillo regime. Dominican immigrants during this period were largely classified as anti-Trujillo political exiles. During that decade, the United States admitted approximately one thousand Dominican nationals per year, many of them establishing roots in Washington Heights.

1960s- 1990s 

Samira Hassa, Food Store in Washington Heights, 2016

Dominican emigration to the United States continued throughout the century, and between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s, more immigrants came to New York City from the Dominican Republic than from any other country. Part of the increase in immigrantion is due to the passage of the Hart – Celler Act (1965) which ended Johnson-Reed and prioritized family reunification as an important part of US immigration law. This undoubtedly facilitated greater emigration by Dominicans and other nationalities.Roughly forty percent of America’s Dominican population resides in New York State with Washington Heights having the largest concentration of Dominicans per square mile than any other Dominican neighborhood in the United States.23

In the wake of the assassination of dictator Rafael Trujullo in 1961 in the Dominican Republic, social and political tensions spurred Dominican immigration to the United States in large numbers in the 1960s and the following decades.

From The Heights to Little Dominican Republic: Honoring the Dominican Presence

From The Heights to Little Dominican Republic: Honoring the Dominican Presence

Emigration from the Dominican Republic remains high, facilitated by the social networks of now-established Dominican communities in the United States. Many areas in the greater Washington Heights area honor and celebrate Dominican culture. 

At the intersection of 180th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the renamed “Quisqueya Playground” at Highbridge Park  honors the local community that largely emanates from the Dominican Republic. Prior to the arrival of European colonists there in 1492, the island’s aboriginal Taíno people called their native homeland Quisqueya (pronounced kees-KAY-ya), meaning “mother of all lands.” Likewise, a recently dedicated area of Dyckman Street as “Quisqueya Plaza”  reflects the evolution of Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights and Inwood areas as a Dominican American cultural capital. 

In September of 2018, the areas spanning the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhood starting at West 145th street to West 220th Streets became known as “Little Dominican Republic” This cultural and commercial destination, supported by a New York State Congressional House Resolution 77, features historical and cultural landmarks like the Morris-Jumel Mansion and honors the Dominican communities that have made the area a home away from their native island.

On The Land Today: A Vibrant Tribute to the Dominican and Caribbean Experience

On The Land Today: A Vibrant Tribute to the Dominican and Caribbean Experience

A Reflection on Hispañola Roots

Two blocks away from the site of Morris-Jumel Mansion and Roger Morris park at the 163 St-Amsterdam Avenue subway station in Upper Manhattan, a glass mosaic artwork by Firelei Báez (b.1981) greets local residents and tourists. Firelei Báez’ Ciguapa Antellana, me llamo sueño de la madrugada (who more sci-fi than us), 2018, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Art & Design department for this Washington Heights local subway station. The commission includes two platform wall murals and two mezzanine level murals, translated into glass mosaic by the company Mayer of Munich, which create a lively and lush environment underground. The artwork is embedded in the artist’s Caribbean cultural heritage (Báez is of Haitian and Dominican ancestry) and that of the neighborhood surrounding the station. The artist includes a variety of flora specific to the Northeast and to the Caribbean. Báez includes iconography from passion fruit to honeysuckle, azabache bracelets (a protective charm worn by newborns in Latin American and Latino cultures) to ciguapas (female figures of Dominican folklore)  and plantains, which for the artist is a reference to the commonly-used denomination for Dominicans: plataneros

Dominicans are at times referred to as “plataneros”—a term that can either have negative connotations or can be appropriated and accepted as a sense of pride. Báez also makes visual reference to the ‘greater plantains’ (“a weed” with medicinal qualities) that can be traced back to the arrival of the European settlers. This plant was brought to the Americas by the first white European settlers and became such a sign of their presence that the Native Americans referred to them as “White Man’s Foot.” The broadleaf plantains, the abstracted honeysuckle flowers, and the plantain trees are in conversation with the red azabaches, Black Power fists, and the hair pick—intermingling under the Uptown sign that hovers overhead—a reminder of the dynamic Black and Dominican presence in this Northern Manhattan neighborhood. The mural serves as a reminder that “the cycles of migration are not recent, nor tied to a specific economy”- and references to Washington Height’s first non-Native resident-Juan Rodríguez who arrived in 1613 and forged trade relations with Native Americans more than a decade prior to Dutch arrival and settlement.

Through Báez’s visual narrative, the station serves as a potential space for healing for the communities that are being displaced and a bridge that leads to a re-claiming and re-centering of what might be lost. Firelei Báez’s work casts diasporic histories into an imaginative realm, re-working visual references drawn from the past and the present to explore new possibilities for the future. Báez “populates these historically-loaded representations of space with change-making creatures—whose hybrid forms incorporate folkloric and literary references, textile pattern, plantlife, and wide-ranging emblems of healing and resistance—to present fictional alternative universes.”

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Juan Rodriguez Way

Located on Broadway from 159th Street to 218th Street in Northern Manhattan, Juan Rodriguez Way includes part of the original Lenape footpaths through Northern Manhattan and some of the surrounding land when Morris-Jumel Mansion was built in 1765. Due to the large Dominican population in the area, on October 2012, the New York City Council enacted legislation naming Broadway from 159th Street to 218th Street in Manhattan after Santo Domingo-born Juan Rodriguez. 168th street and Broadway was co-named in his honor on May 15th, 2013.

Other local street co-named for Dominican Americans include: Luis El Terror Días Way, who is considered the father of Dominican rock and Normandia Maldonado Way, who was an illustrious performer and cultural activist.


Juan Rodriguez Way, Broadway, Dyckman Street Riverside Drive, Wikicommons: dorante10 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Map: Dominican Heritage District and Cultural Signficance

Explore an interactive map showcasing the geographic boundaries of the proposed Dominican Historic District in Washington Heights developed by CUNY Dominican Studies Institute. Learn about significant individuals and landmarks, such as La Embajada (the embassy),  which was a tailor shop that a group of former constitutionalist soldiers from the Dominican Republic adopted as a recreational community space, and stories about immigrants coming from the Dominican Republic throughout the twentieth century.


Insta-archive on Domnican Life in New York City

Explore this insta-archive of Dominicans in New York City from 1950s-1990s, founded and curated by author Angie Cruz, marking the memories of working-class Dominican women from Washington Heights and beyond.



View this profile on Instagram


Dominicanas NYC (@dominicanasnyc) • Instagram photos and videos

Dominicanos USA

Dominicanos USA (DUSA) is a non-partisan organization founded in 2013, that is committed to the civic, social, and economic integration of Dominican-Americans into the fabric of American society. They celebrate the fact that the people from the Dominican Republic have a long and well-documented history serving the United States, serving as government officials, military personnel, thinkers, sports figures, and also in other capacities. DUSA strives to ensure that every U.S. citizen is able to freely exercise their civic rights, realize their full potential, and capitalize on all opportunities the United States has to offer.

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Conclusion: A Changing Landscape

Conclusion: A Changing Landscape

Living Landscape serves to highlight the the history of the land that the Morris and Jumel estates once encompassed, providing an overview of the evolution of the property overtime. By highlighting three communities, who are very much still active in the area today, the project tells a fuller story of the historic site beyond the Founding Fathers and Mothers and the white property owners  who have been historically credited with solidifying the site’s legacy. 

This land is constantly changing. From colonization and deforestation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to real estate development and commercialization of the past one-hundred years, the area provides a snapshot of America today: one that is in constant change and evolution. 

Additionally, populations and cultural identities have evolved over time: today’s Washington Heights is largely comprised of individuals of Hispanic origin. According to the 2020 Census, 74% of the population in the census tracts that comprise the original Morris and Jumel estates are of Hispanic Origin, 67% are Spanish speakers, and 44% of the population identifies as Dominican. Other cultures in the area identify as Mexican (12%), Ecuadorian (5%), and Puerto Rican (4%).

The Morris-Jumel Mansion is committed to celebrating the diverse stories and shared histories of the land surrounding the site and looks to empower visitors to see themselves reflected in the museum. 

Additional Resources

Whose Land Are You On?

Lenapehoking: The History of Lenape Forced Removals

Lenape Talking Dictionary

Edible Estates: Lenape Foodways

Flora and Fauna of Mannahatta

A Map of what Manhattan looked like in 1609

Harlem Village Plot Map

Women and the American Story

Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811 – Today

Uncovering Black History at Morris-Jumel Mansion: William Lee, Anne Northup, and Early Black Population of Upper Manhattan

First Blacks in the Americas

A History of Dominican Music in the U.S.

Fighting for Democracy: Dominican Veterans from World War II

Artist Talk: An open Horizon (or ) The Stillness of a Wound with Firelei Baez

While We Are Still Here: History of 555 Edgecombe

Morris-Jumel Mansion Virtual Parlor Chat: Celebrating NYC’s Heritage Roses and Community Gardens

American Indian Community House: Collective Voices: Community Talks

Why the Census Matters: Past and Present

Project Credits

Living Landscape: Mapping Community Stories has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities ( Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this web resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Heather Bruegl; BlackGotham Experience; CUNY Dominican Studies Institute



Shiloh Holley, Project Director; Angela Garcia, Content Developer and Project Partner Coordinator; Megan Byrnes, General Support; Mackensie Griffin, Image Rights


Additional Support

American Indian Community House, Lenape Center, Sam Van Aiken, Writing The Land, Nikole Pecore and Nova Nations (translator), Eric Washington (editor), Presley Rodriguez (MJM staff), Catherine Hughes (MJM staff), Megan Lynch (MJM staff), Anacaona Rocio Milagro (poet), Rebecca Haff Lowry (poet), Naa Akona (poet), Dr. Ramona Hernandez (editor), Nidal Q. Henry (videographer), Sarah Berman (graphic design), Sarah Aconite (editor), Jayson M Castillo (editor), Carla Hall (Northup talent), Kamau Ware (Northup artist), Michael Salgarolo (Northup research), Kei Williams (Northup writer), Asmaa Amadou (Northup Fashion and Textile Designer), Isa Reyes (Northup Narrator), The Cornell Lab of Ornithology





William Penn on the Leni Lenape (Delaware), National Humanities Center, 2006. pp. 1–3.; William, Brandon and Alvin M., Josephy, Jr. (ed.), The American Heritage Book of Indians, American Heritage Publishing Co., 1961, pp. 180–211.


Sanderson, Eric, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, Harry N. Abrams, 2013.


The Rechgawawank lived in what is today’s Harlem and the Upper East side, while the Manahate lived in the lower part of Manhattan island with a small settlement near Collect Pond in what is now Chinatown.


Denton wrote and published A Brief Description of New-York: Formerly Called New-Netherlands in London in 1670. The work was written to encourage English settlement of territories recently seized from the Dutch.


Edwin G. Burrows & Mike Wallace, Gotham: A history of New York City to 1808. Oxford University Press. New York, 1999.




Adriaen van der Donck (c.1618 – 1655) was a lawyer and a leader in the political life of New Amsterdam. Impressed by his new home in the colonies, van der Donck made detailed accounts of the land, vegetation, animals, waterways, topography, and climate. See Van der Donck, Adriaen, excerpt from A Description of the New Netherlands, Digital Public Library of America,


A translation of Peter Schagen letter from the New Netherland Institute can be found here: 


This figure appeared in 1846 when E. B. O’Callaghan, who had access to the recently discovered Peter Schagen letter, published his History of New Netherland. In this publication, O’Callaghan introduced the figure of $24 by using the current conversion rates. Since then, the story of Mannahatta being sold for $24 in trade goods was retold and republished many times, leaving the original Dutch amount of 60 guilders lost in translation.


Banner, Stuart, Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier, Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009, pp. 58-59.


Edwin G. Burrows & Mike Wallace, Gotham: A history of New York City to 1808. Oxford University Press. New York, 1999.


Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Juan Rodriguez and the Beginnings of New York City, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute:


Rodriguez offered these services to Captain of the The Fortuyn, Hendrick Christiansen.


Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Juan Rodriguez and the Beginnings of New York City, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute:


Leslie M. Harris In The Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863. See page 13. Gram Hodges includes Juan Rodriguez in his work Root and Branch, as part of his discussion on the history of blacks in colonial New Amsterdam and New York (see pages 6-7). Also see Burrows and Wallace Gotham, 19. CUNY’s Dominican Studies Institute’s monograph on Jaun Rodriguez provides further documentation, and supports the identification of Rodriguez as the first non-native settler on Mannahatta. See: Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Juan Rodriguez and the Beginnings of New York City, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute:


Jonathan Gill, Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, Grove Press, 2011.




Constance Grieff, The Morris-Jumel Mansion: A Documentary History, Heritage Studies Incorporated, 1995.


The New York Manumission Society was formed under the full name “The New York society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting Such of Them as Have been, or May be Liberated." Members (several were Quakers, some had once owned slaves) were largely motivated by the kidnapping of free blacks from the streets of New York, who were then sold into slavery. 


Office of the Historian, Milestones 1921-1936. Immigration Act of 1924. 


The Immigration Act of 1924 was authored by Representative Albert Johnson of Washington (Chairman of the House Immigration Committee), the bill passed on May 26, 1924 with broad support from western and southern Representatives, by a vote of 323 to 71. “It has become necessary that the United States cease to become an asylum,” Representative Johnson declared during debate on the bill. This bill included the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act. 


The Trujillo dictatorship (1930–61) was one of the longest, cruelest, and most absolute in modern times. 


Ramona Hernandex, Dominicans in the United States: A Socioeconomic Profile, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, 2022,