The Slave Galleries at St. Augustine of Hippo Church in Lower Manhattan
The slave galleries at St. Augustine of Hippo Church at 290 Henry Street in lower Manhattan have received considerable attention in recent years from both the church and the general public.
St. Augustine’s Church is now located in the 1828 building of All Saints Church; though slavery was abolished by the New York State legislature in 1827, the 1828 All Saints church building nevertheless included slave galleries in its design and construction. In 1945 the congregation of St. Augustine’s Church, originally St. Augustine’s Chapel, a Trinity Wall Street Church mission, upon sale of their building, moved to the All Saints Church building and the congregations merged. From 1949 to 1976, Trinity Wall Street managed the church as St. Augustine’s Chapel; it became independent when Trinity Church divested itself of its chapels. In 1980, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the time of the 1949 merger, under the leadership of the Reverend Kilmer C. Myers, part of Trinity Wall Street’s clergy from 1946-1963 and retired Bishop of California, St. Augustine’s was one of the parishes that participated in programs “aimed at inter-racial fellowship and service to ghetto residents.” Both St. Augustine’s and Reverend Myers are referenced in The Church Awakens: African American and the Struggle for Justice Timeline: African American and the Episcopal Church 1949 Pro-Civil Rights Clergy Begin Ministry in Inner City. The flags in a recent photo of the slave galleries reflect the various cultures of the congregation today.
The links below provide further information on St. Augustine’s, the slave galleries and increased public interest in St. Augustine’s as an example of the church’s complicity in the legacies of slavery.
Click here to see the undated historical write up by the American Guild of Organists. This quote from the article highlights the significance of the galleries: “Perhaps the most interesting and disturbing feature in St. Augustine’s are the two crude slave galleries that flank the organ loft at the rear of the balcony. Although the church was consecrated in June 1828, a year after emancipation had become law in this state, New York continued to recognize as slaves those persons who were in the company of their masters from other states.”
Click here to see how St. Augustine’s slave galleries are presented to those who want to learn about New York City history. Untapped New York (February 15, 2019)
Click here to see St. Augustine’s Slave Gallery Enters Second Phase article which references the use of the slave galleries as late as the 1930s for segregated Sunday school classes. (Episcopal New Yorker Summer 2011- page 32)
Click here to see a description of the slave galleries as an example of 19th century marginalization of Black people. The Episcopal Church, New York (Episcopal New Yorker December 14, 2009)
Click here to see The St. Augustine’s Project, Inc. (circa 2009)
Click here to see a New York Times interview with Rev. Deacon Edgar Hopper. (April 17, 2009)
Click here to see The St. Augustine’s Slave Galleries article (Episcopal New Yorker January/February 2008-page 7-8) .
Click here to view a New York Times video of the Reverend Deacon Edgar W. Hopper, Rodger Taylor, former EDNY Reparations Committee member and St. Augustine’s Parishioner Valerie Preston discussing the slave galleries (February 24, 2006)
Click here to see the New York Newsday article on Manumission Day (July 4, 1827) and the slave galleries (February 2004)