‘Unspoken Voices’ Exhibit Using Art to Humanize Those Enslaved at NYC’s Dyckman Farmhouse

Tags: Currents American history, Black History, Black History Month, Crux, Dyckman Farmhouse, History, Slave, Slavery

By Emily Drooby

Six names are no longer hidden from the world. Now, they’re part of an exhibit at the Dyckman Farmhouse in Upper Manhattan.

“Bringing to light, the names of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the Dyckman Farm,” explained executive director Meredith Horsford as she guided Currents News through a tour of The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.

The farmhouse built in the late 1700’s had enslaved and freed black men and women living there in the early 1800’s.

The museum now hosts a special exhibit, “Unspoken Voices: Honoring the Legacy of Black Americans.” It features special pieces from three local artists — Gwendolyn Black, Sheila Prevost and Rachel Sydlowski.

“All of their pieces are in response to the research that we’ve been doing on the enslaved and free black people who lived here,” Meredith explained.

The research the farmhouse team did was aimed at unearthing information about the farmhouse’s unspoken voices.

“It’s been a perfect opportunity to learn more about narratives that are underrepresented and silenced,” said the museum’s intern, Stephanie Barnes, when asked why this exhibit was so important.

Meredith explained further: “They prospered off of the backs of enslaved labor, and it’s very important, especially today but any time, to tell a complete history of the site, and that’s really important to us.”

Now, their six names are no longer unspoken.

To know Harry and Hannah and Will, it’s really, I find, inspiring and empowering to be able to say their names and make that a really important part of our story,” Meredith added.

The art pieces, including figures throughout the house and a multimedia display, are the artists’ reaction to that research.

Meredith hopes they spark an important conversation.

When speaking of the one thing she wants people to take away from the exhibit, Meredith said, “I hope that would just be that they feel more comfortable having a conversation about difficult topics, like slavery. I have noticed that when interacting with visitors, it really is an easy way to ease into a conversation about a really challenging topic by asking questions or talking to someone about a piece of art.”

They’re uncovering the ignored histories of their past and sharing those crucial stories with the world.