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Did a Brooklyn Home’s Tunnel Provide Passage to Escaped Slaves?

Underground Railroad participation is hard to prove. Activists battling to save 227 Duffield Street from demolition say its fate will show what New York values.
The house at 227 Duffield Street in Brooklyn housed a known abolitionist family in the 19th century and is reputed to have been part of the Underground Railroad. Activists are fighting to keep it from being demolished and replaced by an apartment building.
The house at 227 Duffield Street in Brooklyn housed a known abolitionist family in the 19th century and is reputed to have been part of the Underground Railroad. Activists are fighting to keep it from being demolished and replaced by an apartment building.Rebecca Bellan/CityLab

“Every time we produced new evidence, they told us it wasn’t enough. What do you want? You want me to have dead slaves in the basement?”

Lewis Greenstein was referring to the battle he and “Mama Joy” Chatel fought to prove to New York City that their downtown Brooklyn homes on Duffield Street were stops on the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, and worth saving, a battle that is ongoing. But how do you prove a two-century-old activity that was, as a matter of life and liberty, unrecorded?