Researching People of Color on Blackwell’s Island

When I was working on my book about Blackwell’s Island, I wanted to address the experiences of people of color on the island. There were actually relatively view people on color in any of the institutions. Quick backstory: In the 19th century New York City owned Blackwell’s Island (now called Roosevelt Island) and they used it to build public institutions like the Lunatic Asylum, the Workhouse, a penitentiary, an Almshouse and a public hospital for the poor.

I started keeping track of how many people of color showed up in the yearly censuses for the buildings and at a certain point I also noted their names. It is a rough, very rough list, and not at all complete, but I just came across it and I thought this might be useful for anyone researching people of color on Blackwell’s Island, either for research or genealogical purposes. I don’t want to post names here, but if you are looking for someone of color who might have been on Blackwell’s Island, or are doing genealogical research, please feel free to reach out to me.

An inmate/patient or worker on Blackwell’s Island:

Man on Blackwell's Island, 1896

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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